The Peter Levine Somatic Experiencing® Research Awards are annual awards for research excellence into the Somatic Experiencing model. Two research awards for $1,000 will be given annually: a student award for dissertation or thesis research and another for research conducted by professionals in education or practice settings.
2021 marks the first year for the award. Eight applications were received in early fall 2020: four student and four professional applications. Nine reviewers stepped up to ensure each application was evaluated (blind) by at least 3 independent reviewers. The awards were evaluated on four criteria:
1. Methodological excellence,
2. High impact (e.g. either affecting an underserved or marginalized group or likelihood of significant impact into public or community health),
3. Research emphasizing Somatic Experiencing methods or primary research implications of Somatic Experiencing model, and
4. Inclusion of culturally responsive research practices.
Numeric scores and reviewer comments were used to identify this year’s winners: Madeleine Lowman (Student Award) and Didem Çaylak and the Turkey SE™ Volunteer Research Project Team (Professional Award). Excerpts from the applicants’ abstracts demonstrate the level of excellence for these inaugural winners.
Student Award Winner: Madeleine Lowman, Ph.D.
Research Title: Noticing Trauma Responses: The Development and Validation of the Autonomic Response Screening Tool for Counselors (ARSTC).
Abstract Excerpt: Because autonomic regulation is tied to which trauma response a client experiences (and exhibits in session), it is important for counselors to have a way to screen for it. Based on Polyvagal Theory (PVT) literature and the author’s training in SE, visual markers indicative of autonomic regulation related to the social engagement, fight/flight, and freeze responses were organized into the Autonomic Response Screening Tool for Counselors (ARSTC). Using factor analysis, these items did not categorize into the specific trauma responses as outlined within PVT, but they did seem to be representative of two broader yet distinct nervous system processes: sympathetic and parasympathetic processes, which can be of particular value for SEPs to know what to look for and intervene with in session. The analyses suggested initial evidence for the validity the ARSTC, specifically related to changes in heartrate variability (HRV) between the ARSTC categories of social engagement and freeze, and fight/flight and freeze.
Professional Award Winner: Didem Çaylak, Turkey SE® Volunteer Research Project Team.
Research Title: Effectiveness of SE on Stress and Anxiety Levels of Healthcare Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Abstract Excerpt: The purpose of this research study was to investigate the effects of Somatic Experiencing® sessions on reducing the stress and anxiety levels of frontline healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Over 200 healthcare professionals and paraprofessionals applied to the project, where volunteer SE practitioners in Turkey provided two online SE sessions based on stabilization methods. The study was designed as a quasi-experimental study without a control group, with single factor repeated measures with pre, post and follow-up tests. To reduce the stress and anxiety levels of the study participants, stabilization exercises based on grounding, pendulation, titration, resourcing, orienting, movement, and self-touch, as well as SE techniques such as pendulation, titration, normalization, containment, the T-zero model, visualization, and imagining missing resources were used as applicable in each session. To measure effectiveness, the stress and anxiety subscales of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21 (DASS-21) were administered prior to the first and immediately after the second session, and two weeks after the second session. Analyses of pre- and post-test scores showed that there was a significant difference between pre- and post-test scores, and although there was a slight increase in follow-up scores, there was not a significant difference between post-test and follow-up scores. In conclusion, SE was found to be effective in reducing the stress and anxiety levels of healthcare workers. Follow-up assessments conducted two weeks after the second SE session also showed that the observed effects still continued.
The SEI Research Committee is deeply grateful to all applicants – the level of passion for and expertise in research for SE is inspiring. And, we are very much indebted to the commitment of our nine reviewers. Without their willingness to invest time and energy evaluating these applications, the award would not be possible.
Winners will be celebrated at the Annual Conference in June with a special recognition by Dr. Peter Levine.
We are eager to continue to build on the excellence of this year’s applications and look forward to rolling out the award process for 2021 – stay tuned for more information this fall!