Therapy 101

Somatic therapy exercises and techniques

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Somatic therapy exercises and techniques

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While cognitive therapies deal with mind and our thoughts, somatic therapies realize that we store our experiences and our emotions in our bodies. You may experience symptoms of stomach upset or back pain and not be aware that this is associated with deeply ingrained and systemic anxiety or stress. Sometimes, our bodies are giving us information that our brains are not consciously aware of. Alternatively, some forms of somatic therapy can be very beneficial to those for whom it may be too traumatic to relive their experiences in talk therapy. 

Somatic therapy techniques are body-focused to help us calm our nervous systems that have been overloaded by stress. 

Techniques in somatic therapy may include:

Grounding: Our nervous systems kick into overdrive when we perceive danger. It’s important to bring ourselves out of that mode, especially when there is no real danger present. Grounding is about settling back into the present moment by splashing cold water on your face, doing controlled breathing, tensing and relaxing different parts of your body, or even just making your body move in a different way (stand from sitting, stretching, jumping).

Resourcing: Turns out, “go to your happy place” can have real psychological benefits. Resourcing is about identifying the tools in your toolbox to utilize when needed—memories of times you were strong, in a safe space, or with trusted people. You catalogue the good body feelings and physical sensations associated with those memories. These become your anchors when you need to regulate from stress. 

Titration and pendulation: Titration is a word taken from chemistry in which one solution is slowly added to another until a desired reaction is achieved. Pendulation is like the swinging of a hanging object side-to-side. These techniques work together in somatic therapy. During titration, you will slow down to pay attention to sensations in the body in increments while talking through experiences. This helps you get through a response to trauma without being overwhelmed. Pendulation requires the transition from resourcing to titration—stressful to calm sensations. This can help you find a rhythm of dealing with current and future stressors.

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