This is the last in a five-part series on SE® in the heart of Africa. In the previous entry, Jonathan confronted post-colonial wounds until he and a client could see each other “as two sentient human beings, each fundamentally entitled to dignity, respect, and compassionate human connection.”
Part 5: A Dream for the Future
What would it look like if Somatic Experiencing® was systematically available in communities around the world, whether they were rich or poor, big or small, rural or urban? Could we imagine a better world? A more peaceful world? A world in which we were better able to take care of ourselves, each other, and the planet?
My work in Rwanda and neighboring countries over the last year and a half has convinced me that making SE available worldwide in a systematic way is a very real possibility.
In this final entry of the series, I'd like to share a few concrete ideas about how Somatic Experiencing can be made sustainably available to communities around the world, regardless of size, ethnicity, economic situation, religion, or political allegiance:
- Partner with local organizations. The Great Lakes region of Africa (and probably the entire world) is absolutely teeming with motivated, capable, locally knowledgeable, and socially engaged organizations which are just waiting for the kinds of skills and partnerships that the SE community has to offer. Partnering with such organizations is the most streamlined way of making SE available at a global level.
- Bring training into communities. Individuals and communities in developing countries want to be empowered— with skills, and with the ability to help themselves and each other. Gaining the trust and respect of such communities (many of whom have been betrayed too many times) means showing that we are willing to invest in their ability to take charge of their own wellbeing. Training members of local communities is also the most effective way to ensure that this work is sustainable and tuned in to local cultural conditions.
- Focus on stabilization. While in the West we tend to approach stabilization at an individual level, in many developing countries (and especially in conflict-affected regions) it is necessary to approach stabilization at a community level. By training individuals in skills that they can use to stabilize themselves and each other, we can support the creation of a collective environment that is conducive to long-term healing.
- Document and share results. While those of us in the SE community know first-hand the deep benefits that Somatic Experiencing brings, the wider professional community needs to hear about these benefits in a language that it understands. By carefully collecting data that documents the benefits of our work, we open the horizons for our work to spread in many different ways.
- Develop a reproducible approach. My work in Rwanda has convinced me that it is possible to build up a standardized approach to using SE in international settings. This approach can be structured enough to be used in cultures around the world, while at the same time having ample inbuilt space for the wisdom and experience of local cultures to emerge.
- Start locally, plan globally. By starting off with a modest number of local projects that are designed with reproducibility in mind, we can quickly develop the knowledge and evidence-base that paves the way for widespread application of this work.
- Coordinate our efforts. Various groups of practitioners (such as Lotus Circle International and Threshold GlobalWorks) have shown that SE can be an extremely useful tool in development and humanitarian settings. To make this work available in a widespread way, we need to develop a structure for coordinating our efforts, so that we can make good on the full potential of what our community has to offer.
Over and over again, my experience has been that people around the world are hungry for this work. When they learn that there is an approach to healing trauma that will empower their lives, their communities, and their nations, people will cross deserts to be a part of it.
With that in mind, the question becomes how can we make this work available? With so much injustice in our world, and with the amount of trauma increasing day by day, I believe that the chance to make Somatic Experiencing available worldwide is more than just an opportunity: it is an obligation.
Author Jonathan Nattel is a psychotherapist from Canada who has extensive international and cross-cultural experience. With backgrounds in psychology, anthropology, music, and pedagogy, his work is focused on the relationship between mind, body, community, and nature. A former clinician at the Center for Somatic Psychotherapy in San Francisco, he currently runs the Rwanda Counseling Project for HOPEthiopia/Rwanda.