In February of 2019, Somatic Experiencing was introduced in Cairo, Egypt, bringing SE to Northern Africa for the first time. This first cohort, organized by Rebecca Porteos and Katriona Shawki and taught by SE faculty member, Efu Nyaki, was well-received. Students quickly recognized how needed SE is in Egypt, and two students, Noha Farouk and Yasmine Madkour, felt passionately that the trainings must continue. Katrina and Rebecca saw an opportunity to focus their efforts into supporting their current cohort and graciously passed the organizer torch to Noha and Yasmine. These two stepped into the role with concentrated enthusiasm, leading to the beginning of a training organization and association that not only organizes SE trainings in Egypt, but also offers support for somatic education to the Middle East and North African region and Arabic-speaking bodies; they called it the Egypt School of Somatics (ESOS).
Noha Farouk worked as a Trager practitioner and homeopath for many years before studying SE. She became familiar with it over many years, particularly after reading Waking the Tiger by Dr. Peter Levine, and when she learned of the 2019 cohort in Cairo, she signed up without hesitation.
Since starting her training, Noha has come to understand SE as the “missing link” in her practice.
“There is now a sense of safety in sessions that I attribute very much to learning SE,” Noha says. “It changed my work and my life completely. I don’t see the two as separate.”
Yasmine Madkour had a more personal journey with SE, rooted in trauma and PTSD. As far back as 2014 she struggled to find therapeutic care that truly touched the root of her trauma. “I started attending behavioral therapy,” she explains, “and it was helpful to an extent, but there was something missing. I couldn’t find a solution.”
Yasmine became fervent in her search for the solution and began studying psychology and sexology online and advocating for survivors of domestic violence. She held workshops and attended workshops. But something was still missing. One day she attended a workshop in Cairo about somatic therapy. “It wasn’t Somatic Experiencing, but it prompted me to learn more.” That’s when Yasmine was introduced to Dr. Levine’s books and a lightbulb went off. “It was everything I was looking for.”
Yasmine registered for the training in Cairo and didn’t look back. “The training was life changing. Before SE, I would tell my therapist that I felt okay, but I couldn’t feel joy. I couldn’t feel alive. My therapist couldn’t understand. After the Intro to SE, it felt like the perfect explanation to what I was facing and going through.”
Yasmine says she became obsessed with SE. She immersed herself in her studies, took more personal sessions than was required for her certificate, spoke with everyone who would listen about it. Even her prayer life was changed by it.
“I approached everything somatically. Over time, people started to recognize the shift in my nervous system. I was changed emotionally and spiritually.”
So when Noha approached Yasmine about co-organizing the training, Yasmine didn’t think twice. She already owned a company that could facilitate everything legally and financially and organize the logistics, so they were able to leverage that as a resource. They have since established ESOS as a virtual entity.
Noha explains that Egypt is in great need of Somatic Experiencing currently. There is very little access to therapeutic resources and various modalities. “There’s a thirst for it,” she says. “The revolution in 2011 shifted something greatly in the whole field on every level. Trauma became very prevalent, and more and more people are seeking help.”
Yasmine adds that the lack of therapeutic options has created a stressful situation in the population. “A lot of therapists here need training from a holistic and nervous system perspective. The training here around trauma is from a very narrow perspective and doesn’t consider the experience itself.”
Both Noha and Yasmine emphasize the shift that has occurred for women in Egypt.
“A lot of women recently have been speaking up about boundaries and abuse and the shame layer that was there for women when seeking help,” Noha says. “There has always been a need, but now there is also a vocalization of that need.”
It is this need for Somatic Experiencing that has driven the duo to pursue a more dynamic purpose for ESOS, beyond just organizing the trainings. Already, they have been able to establish a scholarship program that offers spots in the training for practitioners who work with people outside of central Cairo and in communities that don’t have access to mental healthcare. Applicants are required to submit a plan for how they will provide SE-based services to their communities.
Currently, as the program is in its first year, ESOS is only able to offer one partial scholarship spot for the upcoming cohort, but their goal is to be able to provide more. They are also striving to be able offer opportunities for students to step into the role of assistant to the SE training program. “The ultimate goal is to be able to support students in pursuing faculty track,” Yasmine explains. “We want to be able to have trainings in Arabic instead of relying solely on interpreters.”
ESOS is currently working toward becoming a regulating body for somatic therapists, body workers, somatic educators, and anyone else who incorporates somatic approaches into their practice. They are planning to support practitioners with the highest level of ethics, as well as trainings and scholarship that would take the needs of the culture and region into consideration.
Noha and Yasmine are completing their Advanced year in October of 2022, but their involvement with the SE trainings has only just begun. SEI is thrilled about the establishment of ESOS and is eager to see how the association helps SE to expand through the Middle East and North African region and Arabic-speaking bodies.