WE ENVISION A WORLD THRIVING BEYOND TRAUMA

What is Somatic Experiencing?

The Somatic Experiencing® method is a body-oriented approach to the healing of trauma and other stress disorders. It is the life’s work of Dr. Peter A. Levine, resulting from his multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, together with over 45 years of successful clinical application. The SE approach releases traumatic shock, which is key to transforming PTSD and the wounds of emotional and early developmental attachment trauma.

Offers a framework to assess where a person is “stuck” in the fight, flight or freeze responses and provides clinical tools to resolve these fixated physiological states. It provides effective skills appropriate to a variety of healing professions including mental health, medicine, physical and occupational therapies, bodywork, addiction treatment, first response, education, and others.

Trauma may begin as acute stress from a perceived life-threat or as the end product of cumulative stress. Both types of stress can seriously impair a person’s ability to function with resilience and ease. Trauma may result from a wide variety of stressors such as accidents, invasive medical procedures, sexual or physical assault, emotional abuse, neglect, war, natural disasters, loss, birth trauma, or the corrosive stressors of ongoing fear and conflict.

The SE approach facilitates the completion of self-protective motor responses and the release of thwarted survival energy bound in the body, thus addressing the root cause of trauma symptoms. This is approached by gently guiding clients to develop increasing tolerance for difficult bodily sensations and suppressed emotions.

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our mission

Trauma is a fact of life. It does not have to be
a life sentence.

The SE Trauma Institute is dedicated to resolving trauma worldwide by providing state-of-the-art professional training and public education in the Somatic Experiencing method. SE is a powerful psychobiological method for addressing physical and emotional trauma, PTSD, overwhelm, and stress related conditions. Through our membership association we support the self-organization of a broad international network of passionate skillful SE practitioners who serve individuals in need and communities in crisis around the globe.

our founder

Dr. Peter A. Levine received his PhD in medical biophysics from the University of California in Berkeley and also holds a doctorate in psychology from International University. He has worked in the field of stress and trauma for over 40 years and is the developer of the Somatic Experiencing method. Peter’s original contribution to the field of Body-Psychotherapy was honored in 2010 when he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP). That same year he also received the honorary Reis Davis Chair in Child Psychiatry for his innovative contribution to therapy for children and adolescents.

Peter is the author of the best selling book Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma — which was published in 24 languages and sold over 250,000 copies — as well as four audio learning series for Sounds True including the book/CD, Healing Trauma: a Pioneering Program in Restoring the Wisdom of Our Bodies and Sexual Healing, Transforming the Sacred Wound. He is the co-author of Trauma through a Child’s Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids: A Parents Guide for Instilling Confidence, Joy and Resilience. He recently released with Maggie Phillips the book/CD Freedom from Pain: Discover Your Body's Power to Overcome Physical Pain.

Beginning in the 1970’s, Peter’s explorations into how animals deal with threat led to the development of the Somatic Experiencing method, a method that is highly effective in dealing with the effects of overwhelm on our nervous system, called Somatic Experiencing (SE). SE is a clinical methodology based upon an appreciation of why animals in the wild are not traumatized by routine threats to their lives, while humans, on the other hand, are readily overwhelmed and often subject to the traumatic symptoms of hyper arousal, shutdown and dysregulation.

The image of the tiger was invoked by Dr. Peter A. Levine during his first session with “Nancy,” who suffered from an array of symptoms, in an event that would define and shape his career.

Without warning, Nancy suddenly froze, her pulse skyrocketing as she began reliving the moments before a traumatic childhood surgery, including being bound and anesthetized with ether. “I’m going to die! Please don’t let me die!” she repeated, helplessly. Amidst this chaos, Dr. Levine was compelled, by a seemingly prescient vision of a charging tiger, to say: "Nancy, you're being chased by a tiger. Run! Run for the nearest tree!" It was at this moment, as Nancy began kicking her feet, that Dr. Levine first witnessed the human animal’s innate ability to heal from shock and terror, by completing the instinctual, self-protective act that had been overwhelmed and frozen into her body’s nervous system, over 20 years earlier. On repeated follow up, this single session had a dramatic impact on Nancy's life, including the dissolution of her agoraphobia, cessation of her migraines, and a renewed, sustained vigor in living.

The Tiger has become a symbol of our aliveness, our innate nature.

Peter Levine, Peter A Levine, Dr. Peter Levine, Somatic Experiencing Founder

Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory

Dr. Peter Levine introduced the world to his pioneering approach to trauma therapy, the Somatic Experiencing method, in Waking the Tiger and In an Unspoken Voice. Now, with Trauma and Memory, he takes the next step in his work as a scientist, storyteller, and master clinician, tackling one of the most difficult and complex questions of trauma therapy: Can we trust our memories? Written for mental health care practitioners as well as trauma sufferers, Trauma and Memory is a groundbreaking look at how memory is constructed and how influential memories are on our present lives.

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board of directors

The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute is under leadership of an engaged and active Board of Directors, composed of volunteers who—on the basis of their specific knowledge, skill, and experience—make valuable contributions to our current functioning and future development. The Board, with members from both within and outside of the SE community, collectively holds responsibility for stewardship of the Institute. The Board seeks guidance as necessary from an Advisory Board chaired by Peter A. Levine, PhD; from a number of committees addressing various aspects of the Institute’s work; and from expert consultants in a variety of disciplines.

From the Chair of the Board of Directors

All of us on the Board have experienced the miracle of SE in our personal and professional lives. This work is transformative, empowering individuals in their own healing and creating permanent ripple effects on global communities. Over the last 25 years, our graduates and those they touched have seen life-changing results and have become our greatest advocates. We are grateful for Dr. Levine's gift of SE and for all those who support this restorative work: our students, administrative team, faculty, coordinators, international organizers, and dedicated volunteer training assistants. Together, we are pleased to offer you an inspiring crucible for a life-altering educational journey.

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