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Why Therapy Has Ignored the Body / SNB134 quotes & show notes

Updated: Mar 16, 2023


[Therapist] relevance dwindles because we have been so focused on theoretical constructs; thinking as the problem or behavior as the problem and really slow to incorporate somatic pieces.
This information has been out there and therapy has absolutely lagged when it comes to the somatic pieces of change.
When it comes to the somatic pieces of change, there’s really no prescribed norms of behavior.
I can see why psychology has been reluctant to adopt the somatic pieces of change. It’s not about diagnosis. We don’t get to hide behind our diagnoses anymore… and that makes us less special.
Our behavior is largely dictated by what state we are in and what types of behavior that gives us access to.
We don’t do prosocial behavior unless we’re in our safety state and able to do that.
Rather than thoughts and behaviors being the priority, in my opinion it’s the somatic aspects.
[Change is about] mindfully being with the somatic aspects, self-regulating on a very nervous system level and then behaviors and thoughts change.
In my opinion, if you don’t have [somatic knowledge] as a therapist, you are way behind. And in my opinion you are doing a disservice to your clients…
Having more energy before a session is not a bad thing. It’s just about - can you contain it? Can you feel it? Can you use it appropriately? If you lose access to your safety, then it becomes a problem.

From Libby via Instagram

Hello. I wanted to reach out and thankyou for your podcast. I am only 7 episodes in. I am a CBT and ACT therapist and struggle myself. There is something missing from these therapies. The body. I am so interested in polyvagal theory and I'm hoping it will really help me and my clients. I have a question if that's OK. Since listening to your podcast, I have been reflecting on how I am not often in a safe and social state during sessions (I am a bit hyped up and worried about not being helpful). I have been trying to do belly breathing before and during sessions. Anything else you would recommend? Thank you again. I think I've found the missing piece!!!!!


  • Psychology has dominated the thought world.

    • The world of theory, relationship, behavior

    • We have owned the world of mental health as a thinking problem, as a behavioral problem

  • And we have increasingly become more relevant as mental health seems to be declining along with a higher awareness of and encouragement in mental wellness

    • A need for effective services to help people change, not for therapy

  • But the internet has made it very very easy for others to provide a similar service

    • Coaches of all kinds: relationship, business, trauma

    • Somatic Experiencing isn’t coaching, it’s a modality that focuses on trauma

  • But we’ve lagged in the somatic world

    • Now we see we aren’t super special and other people are filling the need for change agents

    • Because it’s not exclusively ours

  • Everyone owns a piece of the somatic pie

    • This is just biology that can be adjusted through mindfulness

    • No prescribed norms of behavior that we have authority over

      • Just what behavior and interactions are ideal for biological survival

    • Psychology has had a hold over what is “normal”

      • When it comes to biology, it’s about what is ideal on an evolutionary level

    • Psychology has had a hold over what is “abnormal” or “disordered”

      • When it comes to biology, bx and thought is about survival always

  • So why has psychology been slow to incorporate this?

    • Because we aren’t special anymore

    • We don’t have control over what is normal or abnormal, just biology, just evolution


  • Common for therapists to feel anxious during the session

    • We want to help, we want to be relevant, we want to help people meet their goal(s)

    • So we’re excited about our role and helping

  • Reframe - We’re excited to help

    • But excitement requires continued access to our safety state

  • When we’re enough dysregulated, we tend to fill up time, fill up silence

    • Story follows state so we worry about if we’re helping

  • Deep breathing can be great to slow your system down and access more safety

    • Whatever works for the individual

    • Don’t worry about the right technical thing, just worry about what your body wants


  • Also keep in mind that what you’re feeling in session could be empathy

    • A slight sensation of disconnection might be a hint as to what they are feeling

    • Discern what is your sensation, from you and what is your sensation from empathy

      • Picking up the cues of the client’s body

    • If it’s your own sensation, figure out what grounds you

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