Peter Levine Trauma 2016 Free Report Page

What Resets Our Nervous System After Trauma

Peter Levine, PhD
with Ruth Buczynski, PhD

Dr. Levine: When I first started developing my approach to trauma, I noticed how many different kinds of seemingly ordinary events could cause people to develop symptoms that would be later defined as trauma, as PTSD.
I also was really curious why animals in the wild don’t develop the same symptoms – because the parts of the brain that respond to stress are quite similar in all mammals, including humans. And if animals became so easily traumatized, they probably would never survive because they would lose their edge. They wouldn’t survive, nor would the species survive.
So I realized there must be some powerful innate mechanism that helps people rebound; that sort of resets our nervous system after highly arousing encounters with stress. And I discovered that these reactions that reset the nervous system are identical with animals and with people. The difference is that we learn to override it because of our fear of powerful sensations.
“I discovered that these reactions that reset the nervous system are identical with animals and with people. ”
I know it is an oversimplification, but the basic idea is to guide people to help them recapture this natural resilience. We can do this through helping them become aware of body sensations. And as they become aware and are able to befriend their body sensations, they are able to move out of these stuck places.
I realized that trauma was about being stuck in these high levels of arousal or in low-level, shut-down levels of arousal and dissociation. So it really became a matter of learning how to help the people to contain these sensations and help them to move through, back into life, to discharge, as it were, these high-levels of activation.
“It really became a matter of learning how to help the people to contain these sensations and help them to move through, back into life, to discharge, as it were, these high-levels of activation.”
In animals – and in humans – I noticed that trauma has a particular type of sequence involving shaking and trembling.
We can help move these people out of these high states of hyper-arousal back into balance, back into equilibrium, and how to help people come out of shut-down and dissociation, and come back into life. We discovered that it was possible to do this in a safe way; in a way that really largely ensured that people weren’t overwhelmed.
Back in the 1970’s, there were some cathartic therapies that would lead to really big reactions, and often people would feel better after that – probably, at least in large part, because there was a releasing of endorphins and catecholamines, adrenalin-like hormones, and neurotransmitters, and so people, in a way, felt a tremendous relief, even a high. But then they would go back into the same trauma patterns afterward.
So I realized that, if you just overwhelm the person, the nervous system really can’t tell the difference between the trauma and just being overwhelmed/overloaded in the same way.
“If you just overwhelm the person, the nervous system really can’t tell the difference between the trauma and just being overwhelmed/overloaded”
So that really is the basis of the core aspects of somatic experiencing. And because it was a naturalistic way of approaching things – learning from animals in the wild, from ethology (I actually called my first book Waking the Tiger, dealing with trauma) – to awakening those resilient instincts that exist within us because we are mammals.
The Nine-Step Method for Transforming Trauma
The first thing is to create a sense of relative safety. You have to help the person feel just safe enough to begin to go into their bodies.
Then, from that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations. And we do it, again, only a little bit at a time, so they “touch into their sensations” then come back into the room, into themselves.
“From that sense of relative safety created by the therapist and the environment, we help the person to support initial exploration and acceptance of sensations.”
The third step is a process I call “pendulation.” That’s a word I made up – what it means is that when people first begin to experience their body sensations, they actually feel worse for a moment. It is probably largely because they have avoided their sensations. So when they feel them, they feel worse.
This is like a contraction. But what I have discovered is when you help support people, they discover that with every contraction there is an expansion. So if they learn to stay with these sensations just momentarily long enough, it will contract but then it will expand. And the rhythm between contraction and expansion, that gives people the sense of, “Oh my God, I’m going to be able to master this!” you know?
“Pendulation is the rhythm between contraction and expansion . . . titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.”
So, again, when they get the sense or rhythm of contraction/expansion, it needn’t then become threatening. It just becomes, “Oh, okay, I’m contracting, and now I’m expanding.”
The fourth step, which is really the first, and the second, and the third, and the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth, is what I call “titration.” And by titrating, by just dosing one small amount of experience at a time, this creates an increase in stability, resilience, and reorganization of the nervous system. So titration is about carefully touching into the smallest drop of survival-based arousal.
Dr. Buczynski: So sort of like a homeopathic approach to trauma? A homeopathic dose level of approaching body experiences?
Dr. Levine: Yes! Yes, that’s it! Yes, that is a really good analogy – and it may be more than just an analogy. You know, we have a number of homeopaths, particularly in the European and South American trainings – and, you know, they get it, they really get it; you know, the idea of the smallest amount of stimulus that get the body engaged in its own self-defense mechanisms.
Then the fifth step is to provide corrective experiences by helping them have active experience that supplants or contradicts the passive response of collapse and helplessness. So as they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.
“As they recover active responses, they can feel empowered – they develop active defensive responses.”
When animals are in the immobility response, when they are in the shut-down state, it’s normally time-limited.
I was out on the beach the other day and some of the kids on the beach do this for fun – they will take one of the pigeons and hold it. They will come up very quietly behind the pigeon, hold around its wings so it can’t move, and then turn it over and it goes into this complete immobility response. It doesn’t move. It looks like it is dead – it is so-called “playing possum.”
But then, if they [the kids] leave it for a moment upside-down there on the sand, after a few seconds, it pops out of this immobility state and flies off as though nothing had happened.
But if you frighten the animal when it is coming up or if you frighten it when it is coming in, it stays in that immobility a longer amount of time, a much longer amount of time – particularly if you re-frighten it.
So the thing is that we frighten ourselves. Normally the exiting out of immobility is time-limited. You go in and you go out. When people are coming out of immobility, if they are frightened of those sensations, fear then puts them back into immobility.
So I call it “fear-potentiated immobility.”
In this step, we uncouple the fear from the immobility and the person comes out of the immobility, back into life. And, again, when they come out there is usually a lot of activation, a lot of arousal. When the person comes out, we have to be prepared to help them contain that sensation of arousal and then move through that, back into homeostasis, balance and social engagement. So that is the sixth step.
“We uncouple the fear from the immobility and the person comes out of the immobility, back into life.”
And the seventh step is to help them discharge and regulate the high arousal states, and redistribute the mass of the vital energy mobilized for life-preserving action, while freeing that energy to support higher-level brain functions.
Step eight is engaging self-regulation to restore dynamic equilibrium and relaxed alertness. I like that word better than “homeostasis” because homeostasis implies a static state, and this dynamic equilibrium is always shifting. So we go into a high level of arousal, but dynamically we turn to a balanced equilibrium.
And then the ninth step is to help the person reorient in the here and now – help them to make contact with the environment, the room, wherever they are – the emergency room if it is the emergency room, the recovery room if it is the recovery room. We help them to reestablish the capacity for social engagement.

Now that Peter has walked us through how to reset the nervous system following trauma, we’d like to hear from you.
What are some ways you can use these 9 steps in your work with patients?

Please leave a comment below.

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252 comments so far - add yours!

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  1. Katie says:

    Wow! Thanks for this! Any biooks you suggest reading to gain some more insight into getting over the trauma that I lived through in one year?!?

  2. Thanks for the great post on your blog, it really gives me an insight on this topic.*`,”`

  3. Mary says:

    Always so helpful to learn nuggets about our neurobiology

  4. dr srishti nigam, edmonton ab canada says:

    fabulous work in theory and practice

  5. Marion houghton says:

    I am just revisiting this article and appreciating how it helps me to respond to a hyperaroused patient who is easily triggered in couples treatment. I can help him tolerate his feelings and gain confidence in his ability to self regulate. Thank you.

  6. This is excellent information! I can certainly apply these steps to my work with trauma patients. Thank you so much.

  7. Nathan says:

    Thank you Dr. Levine!

  8. Lorraine says:

    I love your theory and it would be something I wish was out there accessible to different countries to try and I would be willing it on… but I also like to add what about c-ptsd esp c-ptsd from childhood that I believe having it is taught since childhood and become apart of the identity in how to live and survive… I also like to add that professional here in the uk unless paid for are more concerned usually in easy cases mangable to their training of smaller events of truama, Having been through more than multiple truama since childhood they just don’t have the time for me to help and often I’m pushed aside or dropped or thrown pills at that I feel strongly won’t help me but make it worse. It’s so hard to find anyone who cares to help someone like me who’s been through more than one can chew and survive through and I have seen many take their lives over one of my experiences and yet I go on to suffer and fight every day I will always never give up…. but my point is there just isn’t enough help support or professionals out there for those who have prolonged suffered throughout their lives truama anytime they have come out their safe zone esp since childhood… perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough usually I prefer to not waste my anxiety and helpless hopeless Triggers On anymore let Downs.

  9. Glendine says:

    It looks alot like the EMDR therapy im getting and it is actually working!

  10. Cathy says:

    I believe it is called… Co-exsisting! Moving forward, Continuing on in life! It’s reminding yourself each & everyday…. That it is OK to move on, It’s OK to Continue on & It’s OK to Co-exsist!!! One day at a time…. Being Grateful that only you… Can remind yourself That it is OK to be Strong ❤

    • Lorraine says:

      I do all this but it doesn’t help ptsd

      • Lea Francis says:

        Book an appointment with a therapist in your area who has training in Advanced Applications in Cognitive Behavior Therapy via Dr. David Burns. You will rid yourself of your PTSD and be able to live life more fully. Lea.

  11. corinne Radow says:


  12. Mickey Judkovics says:

    You talk about a centripetal vortex, i.e. a force that draws us into our body and which can lead to hyper arousal. What is your experience with centrifugal vortexes (my term)? These type of “vortexes” keep us from being in our body. What are your strategies to work with this condition? One might think of centrifugal vortexes as the cause of somatoform dissociation.

  13. Mickey Judkovics says:

    You talk about a centripetal vortex, i.e. a force that draws us into our body and which can lead to hyper arousal. What is your experience with centrifugal vortexes (my term)? These type of “vortexes” keep us form being in our body. What are your strategies to work with this condition? One might think of centrifugal vortexes as the cause of somatoform dissociation.

  14. says:

    I don’t get it sounds like a lot of talk when trauma occurs there is no space for the feeling if it continues to occur the body shuts down the mind does it need to do to survive. How is little doses of the trauma effective? Create a safe place support the being to have all the body experience sadness looks like crying anger looks like yelling fear looks like shaking to experience the trauma mind and body in harmony memory and present allowed a grounding voice breath ..
    I think we r too afraid of our own emotions so we sanitize them dilute them . I disagree completely that a strong emotional response is only temporary
    To have them to verbalize them to let them flow is true freedom
    we just have control everything organize it label it dilute i
    Nobodys healing wake up look around.

  15. I am a Dharma Teacher in The Kwan Um School of Zen. I also teach Mindfulness Meditation to Seniors and to Twelve Step Programs. Mindfulness of the Breath/Body is the starting point for those who have come to meditation to relieve their suffering.
    Jerry Ashmore
    Empty Circle Zen Group
    Hobart, Indiana

  16. Bronwyn Simpson says:

    Hello Peter and also Ruth. Yes it is great to hear Peter explain his approach so succintly. Somatic Experiencing is such a pivotal methodology in Trauma work. I am familiar with the Neurobiology of Trauma to some extent as having worked with complex trauma for several years and having studied online with Janina Fisher. I have also studied movement based psychotherapy with Amber Gray. My psychologist colleagues have done extensive Somatic Experiencing Training so I guess that I have some of the language and I have also done a TRE training.
    The pendulation and titration application of a lclients experiencing of their own sensations is something which I think I use. But it helps to have the explanation. We are often asking our clients ( Complex Trauma) to do something which seems completely a no go zone, completely contradictory, and that is to walk into the lions den of their own body’s sensations. The notion that their body can be their own healing resource is experienced firstly as weird and frightening.
    The work in firstly helping them calm their amygdala in the initial creating of safety and continues on as we the therapist, nurturant parent, guide our client through a different experience of their body’s sensations, the ebb and flow of arousal, the notion of being able to step in and step out of experiencing, the notion that when we can truly experience what we most fear it loses it’s power.

  17. Nora M. Kostelnik says:

    These are the exact, and I mean exact stages we go through in the harmonizing and songwriting class I teach in Albuquerque New Mexico, at Crossroads for Women. I always wanted to be able to accurately describe in words why we all feel so differently during and after class, even when any of us have been triggered that day or even triggered in class. Thankyou so much for making your studies so easily available. When I give presentations to Senators for funding, this is the language they need in order to understand why our work works. I will always make sure to boldly print your name with every reference to your work. Again, can’t thankyou enough for your generosity.

  18. Karen Macke MA, LPC-S says:

    I do a substantial amount of trauma work. The one things that is most difficult for clients are the feelings and body sensations. They try to avoid these but this is what they need to heal. This can help me present their symptoms in a way that could be useful. Thank-you!Karen

  19. I practice somatic mindfulness with my clients and will re read your book to get a better understanding of the steps thank you!

  20. Danielle says:

    Do you have more to offer on this offering or it published (in an extended form)in a journal that I’d be able to search. I have decided to persue my Clinical MSW but I skill need to peruse much more information (for myself) to ensure I truly follow the pull of my own interests.

  21. Elisabeth says:

    I am struck by how much of the vocabulary of somatic experiencing is similar to that commonly used to describe sexual experiences: arousal and discharge most immediately. It seems logical that this is because bodies have limited repertoires of basic mechanisms. Thinking about this in connection with my struggles to heal from childhood sexual abuse, I wonder if one of the reasons that the problems are so intractable is that the necessary healing reactions are too similar to the sexual responses I didn’t want to have, was ashamed to have, during the abuse.
    Thank you for all the free postings! Even though I’m too broke to afford any of the offers, I am grateful that you make key ideas available to those like me who haven’t been able to create even any financial security in their lives.

    • walt stawicki says:

      because it is an inherently intuitive approach and has over a century of scientific thinking behind it. not the least was what Freud had to abandon to maintain his practice and income in repressed Vienna. Gestaltist continued the study after the international persecutions and u.s. government book-burnings put W.Reich “out of business” for being too frank about bio-energetics …and consequences of obstructions.

      I am convinced that a beast of an abuser, sexual in nature or not, a beast of an abuser is less harmful than charming one. The charmers leave us with this amnbiguity, and as you understand, a sense of conflict over our response, perhaps even a feeling of complicity in cries against us. Far Far easier to heal broken bones with clear conscience after the brutes have their way. My opinion anyway.

  22. Rachel says:

    great summary. I use these concepts in my Physical Therapy practice all the time with trauma and any progression through rehabilitation. Patient regulation and re-establishment of exploratory movement is key.

  23. Vickie says:

    WOW! This was for me, thank you.

  24. Diane Beauséjour says:

    Having experienced the re-living of the trauma of a Stroke during an EMDR practice I sure would spend an important amount of attention to phase 8 And 9.
    Spending talking -Time about what is lost because of the trauma And what remainsremains was very helpful. The going back the sure-place was clear ly not enough.

  25. Catherine Cherry says:

    I read this and realize that I have done this for years particularly with clients suffering from very painful childhood abuse. It is good to have the explanation made so explicit like this. Thank you.

  26. walt stawicki says:

    Animals in the wild DO, you just need to spend a life in the wilds among them to see much of it. They do not last long. You can see lots of it among pets.

  27. Thank you for this beautifully concise info about treating trauma-

  28. Anky Aarts says:

    I use Inherited Family Trauma intervention for this proce. It’s simple and fast and most importantly,
    it restores the flow of love and compassion by healing the ‘false’ or ego based sense of separation.
    Enjoyed reading this interview article.
    Greatly appreciate you sharing this wuth us Ruth. Best wishes, Anky

  29. As a taster this is interesting but the titration stage and all the subsequent stages need much greater explanation.
    Having said this I have read Peter’s book ‘In And Unspoken Voice’ which I found to be truly fascinating and inspiring. I need to make more time to learn more !!

  30. Anne says:

    This new way of wording it makes sense.
    Thank you.
    These “interesting times” since the election have lead me to use Gary Kraftscow’s yoga and meditation to help my students cope with physical sensations of nausea and sleeplessness. Most helpful and will continue keeping your thoughts in mind.

  31. Rosa Jimenez-Vazquez says:

    I believe this schema is easy to apply. It is well explain, easy to understand the steps and apply!

    Specially with children who are autistic who are in constant trauma most of the time created by their own already traumatized mind.

    With refugees who arrive to this country or other countries traumatize will be great. I am a refugee myself and arrived from Cuba 56 years ago. Also I work at International Institute of Los Angeles with refugees I cooed have used it!

    Even with undocumented immigrants will be quite useful.
    So, thank you for such simple, well expressed and powerful piece of transformative behavior, feelings to reach well-being

    • walt stawicki says:

      Thanks for doing the work you are doing. Those who benefit are doing even more than we can imagine to counter the forces of fear (mother of hate) and their destruction of all that we treasure.

  32. Mike says:

    I am fascinated by this topic. The steps outlined in this article seem to affirm ideas presented in a new method called RIM (Regenerating Images in Memory) created by Dr. Deb Sandella. I would love to hear feedback on how this relates. Her new book is called Goodbye Hurt & Pain.

  33. S says:

    Can you translate this material in languages like Hindi and Urdu?

    And a more elaborated explaination would be nore helpful

  34. Gilly Chapell says:

    Too small to read in the panel but it spunds very interesting thank you

  35. Elfie Hinterkopf says:

    I would like to read an actual example of helping a person go through the steps. Thank you. Would I get these example in Peter Levine’s book?

    • Elaine Wells says:

      I agree with the need for examples. The theory looks great, but I would have no idea how to implement it.

      • Renee Goughler, MA, LPC Candidate says:

        Yes the examples would be most helpful

  36. Van Warren says:

    Thank you both for your insights and sharing.

  37. Dawna says:

    I have followed and appreciated Dr. Levine’s work and depth of knowledge in trauma. Love the gift of his generosity in sharing it

  38. Laura says:

    While I understand that SE is a very complex approach, I really appreciate Peter’s explanation to break?it down into easy to digest nuggets. Most of my work is around neurofeedback and both these modalities approach the energy of the system (human) rather then the cognition. That is the only way, I believe, to address the trauma that’s held in the body is through the body! I work with an SE therapist jointly with several patients and they really complement and potentials each other beautifully to enhance healing. Thank you for this simplified explanation!

  39. Elaine Dolan says:

    I really appreciate this explanation below, because this definitely happened to me. Perhaps the backlash was even worse than how I ‘d felt about the traumas in present day:……….. *Back in the 1970’s (… this happened to me in 2004), there were some cathartic therapies that would lead to really big reactions, and often people would feel better after that – (in fact it changed my whole muscle-tight body from tense to soft) probably, at least in large part, because there was a releasing of endorphins and catecholamines, adrenalin-like hormones, and neurotransmitters, and so people, in a way, felt a tremendous relief, even a high. But then they would go back into the same trauma patterns afterward*….Yes, what made all the traumas worse for me was the lack of attachment safety.

    There is some LOVE in titration and reorienting back to present moment…that is focused on the client, not the dog and pony show performed by someone who disempowers the client to make himself the famous fix-it person. Titration is patient and kind. It works.

  40. Barbara Caspy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Las Vegas, Nevada says:

    I appreciate Peter Levine’s 9 step process, as it well mirrors my work with clients. So many of my clients who have experienced trauma are very disconnected from their bodies except for extreme reaction that cause them to feel imbalanced and fearful. It has been helpful to gently get them in touch with body sensations. Breathing techniques have helped them to begin to tolerate their sensations. I like Peter’s contraction/expansion explanation. I’m going to try explaining to clients the process of contraction/expansion to help motivate them to be more willing to touch on their bodily sensations. I really appreciate Peter sharing this article.

  41. I first read waking the tiger way back in the year 2000. And the idea of animal responses made a lot of sense. However, people are far more complex. For many people, trauma can be embedded in relational attachment issues. Understanding the animal response to trauma is important. And it is also important to understand trauma responses within the complex world of human beings.

  42. Denise Ballnik says:

    I would of appreciated a case example. Going through these 9 steps.

  43. Carissa says:

    I have studied many modalities working as a trauma therapist. Peter Levines somatic experiencing has been by far the most profound training experience and has enabled amazing results with clients. This article is very simplified. The theory of SE is sophisticated and deeply embedded in the science of the nervous system, polyvagal theory.
    I think it’s important to remember this that his training takes 3 years to complete so reading and article or book is just a snippet of this amazing modality.

  44. Joe Casey says:

    Just right. This is what I do, using EFT and breath as the main tools. One of the best books on this subject is ‘Metaphors in Mind’ by Lawley and Tompkins, which emerged out of their work with David Grove.

  45. PIERRE H. says:


    • Sarah says:

      Salut Pierre – the SE process is much more complex and nuanced than is described here. So some of your observations around hyper-arousal and dissociation are not necessarily incorrect – keep in mind, the SE training is 3 years long and even then it takes years after that to really master it. This is a super brief article that doesn’t come close to talking about all the subtleties and additional complexities that exist when working with trauma, like the points you bring up which are actually covered in the SE training. Also, SE is not always so linear – these 9 steps don’t always occur like this, especially for much more complex trauma clients. This article is a summary of an overarching framework – how to work within that takes much more knowledge.

      • PIERRE H. says:


  46. Kathie says:

    I like Peter Levine’s work on treating trauma. The work I do with clients is a combination of relaxation techniques, guided visualizations, Focusing (as in Eugene Gendlin”s work), breath and hands on Reiki/Polarity treatment. The first step is to create an environment of safety and trust. I always ask the client for the intention of the session ( often not aware of trauma stored in the body). I have found for some it helps to first do breath work to help them relax and bring them into the present moment. Others I may describe an energy session of them lying on a table fully clothed while I guide them into a relaxed state and then begin the energy session. Often this is one of the first times someone has felt relaxed. I to call it a state of equilibrium, where the energy is gently flowing and all “feels well”. Once clients have had this spacious sense of being, they are better able to begin the process of “Focusing” and sensing their interior state. First focusing on bodily sensations and naming the sensation “knot in neck”. In what Levine calls third Step, “pendulation” when a person first begins to sense their body and may become unsettled, I have them name the sensation and then see if they ask that body sensation to step aside for a moment and go onto the next sensation “that draws their attention and takes them away from feeling totally relaxed. This step does take practice, time, and talking about “self compassion” ” a curiosity” and some times “a birds eye view” . A bit of distance allows them to better explore. It is like a “contraction” and I will often use images to help the client sense the ebb and flow of feelings, thoughts, and sensations. This writing is helpful in affirming a gentle and guided process to help clients learn the skills which allow them to move through old as well as new experience which empower.

  47. Wholistic therapist says:

    I have what has been diognosed as multipal complex trauma, life is very hard to deal with for sure ……… I have a very dear friend who is a homeopath, and she gets very cross with me if I mention TRAUMA, it is as if she doesn’t believe in it, she says homeopathy can bring any thing into balance. I have only used homeopathy Flower remedies Herbs, for the last 40 years no drugs and I have had wonderful results and still do, but after my snap point and trying to get back nothing has compleatley healed me… I would love to hear if Peter Lavine feels this work can be done with homeopathy alone, or the combination, also are there some of us that will never heal? I am about to be 60 and I am not well enough to do my work, so I am going to sell my house to be able to get some SE, a big deal for me, I would love to know before hand if it is for sure SE works for all, I am taking a gamble at my age, and as I am alone in life….I have the dream to be healed and to be able to work with children again and specialise in trauma work, as to live with PTSD is to live a life sentenced to hell, that’s how it feels for me, and I would love to assist others to be liberated before there life and their dreams are wasted, as I feel mine is right now…… the thought of working again is my only thread to the world… Then all of this could have a good reason…. Some feed back would be very much appriceated….

    • walt stawicki says:

      no gamble no gain. you want life to be “safe?” you should have picked a different time and place to get your “assignment.”
      signed: 70 with regrets, the most valuable teachers I have had to date.

      • Wholistic therapist says:

        Safety sounds fab to me, can’t remember a time when I felt that…and yes I wish I had put in for a less challenging assignment, just doing the best I can, and dealing with the shame of not measuring up to my own ideals….thank for your input.

        • walt stawicki says:

          thanks for understanding the spirit I wrote from.

          There are numerous moments when my change of course feels positively dissociative, or perhap like the darkest dispairs (?) long ago looking frankly at the void, the great void.

          Internal or external , I remember “this too will pass…and there I will be, in the next whatever, be it nice or be it …whatever. this is how i endure, not as rock, but as water.

    • Bern says:

      Hi firstly you have just done the most healing thing and that is reach out for help – well done. You can learn a lot from Peter Levine and Stephen Porges websites and videos and books. There is a lot online. As a therapist you can do a lot of psycho education yourself. Joining a mindfulness group is central to putting this work into practise as one to one sessions can only touch the healing needed. The real work is what you learn to do for yourself in-between sessions/ trainings. I would ask you to think seriously before selling your house for this. Step one is about safety and moving house/ sell/ buying is one of the most stressful things you can do to yourself. Sometimes little steps like the titration idea is the way to heal. When the trauma gets triggered it can feel like we have to do something big and immediately to fix it and that is a type of flight / or fight reaction because we fear freeze. Maybe just staying in your home and little steps can seem too simple but it may be safer for you as you explore Somatic Experiencing. Good luck – it is really very good work and worth exploring – just watch the impulse to sell your home really tease out whats behind such a big step. B

      • Bern says:

        …. and I have to add that there is no one way to heal. There are so many new methodologies and techniques that we do have to take our time to find what suits our nervous system – where it is at now – as it changes so what will work will change. Someone in freeze would find a lot of the hard hitting therapies too much but it may suit someone who is working on mobilising their defences. Trust you intuition about what you need. Again there is no one way ……

    • Research Janovian Primal Therapy – the only modality that heals the human condition deeply.

      • Sarah says:

        No one therapy is a panacea… Many therapies can “heal deeply”. I’m always cautious about claims or statements that say “this way is the only way”. There are many ways :)

      • Wholistic therapist says:

        I have done a lot of expressing and to be honest it can feel great for a while but layers still come up, and I feel you can retraumatized yourself, over and over….Thank you for sharing.

      • Bern says:

        Hi firstly you have just done the most healing thing and that is reach out for help – well done. You can learn a lot from Peter Levine and Stephen Porges websites and videos and books. There is a lot online. As a therapist you can do a lot of psycho education yourself. Joining a mindfulness group is central to putting this work into practise as one to one sessions can only touch the healing needed. The real work is what you learn to do for yourself in-between sessions/ trainings. I would ask you to think seriously before selling your house for this. Step one is about safety and moving house/ sell/ buying is one of the most stressful things you can do to yourself. Sometimes little steps like the titration idea is the way to heal. When the trauma gets triggered it can feel like we have to do something big and immediately to fix it and that is a type of flight / or fight reaction because we fear freeze. Maybe just staying in your home and little steps can seem too simple but it may be safer for you as you explore Somatic Experiencing. Good luck – it is really very good work and worth exploring – just watch the impulse to sell your home really tease out whats behind such a big step. B

        • Wholistic therapist says:

          Thank you for your thoughts and taking time to share them….yes the logistics of moving now are making me panick, but to sit in isolation and not do anything I see is having such a bad affect on me too… Bit of a catch 22 I have put myself in I am not in my country so not so easy to get the support I know I need… The idea of joining a mindful gourd sound very appealing… I have all of Peters books the thing is I get triggered reading or listening to the work, it is very frustrating, and quite shocking, I haven’t made it to the end of most of them, with still so much trauma on board…. Anyway it is as it is but very depressing to, as I am trying to help myself to live a more balanced life. Thanks again F

          • Wholistic therapist says:

            Elisabeth thank you for that…. I would love to join some on line connection to chat about steps ahead or just connect, I don’t like face book as I haven’t mastered it, if you had any tips that would be great…. I to hope your path becomes opens in a way that brings you peace and joy….

          • Elisabeth says:

            Yes, I also feel a sense of urgency to get on with my healing as quickly as possible. So far it doesn’t seem to help to do a lot of treatments at once. I’m trying to respect the pace that my own process seems to have. Perhaps this respect and acceptance of how change happens for me is what feeds the progress!
            Also connection with fellow survivors, even in small ways, has been profoundly moving and healing. I hope you find it.

  48. Lynne says:

    Wonderful, thanks!

  49. Shelly says:

    I’m so happy to have the written explanation of Peter’s process. I just watched his 5.5 hour DVD training on SE and it was described and displayed by demo but not
    given in this step by strep written form. It will help me integrate what I saw on the training video to use with clients in sessions and within the EMDR process

    • HELEN BLANDING says:

      ? How might i Ccess this ” 5 hr Training” myself??? THANK YOU! ♥ HKB

  50. Ronda Diegel says:

    Peter’s emphasis on body work is so important. I love having the 9 steps laid out so clearly. Thank you!

  51. Howard Carroll says:

    Interesting concept. Wonder if this might work for grief?

  52. Johanne says:

    Very interessant! But what if the person was in the immobility state for many repetitions of the trauma over so many years and dissociate a lot even with small con tact with the body sensations?

  53. Jocelyn-Health Care Preactioner says:

    Thank you so much for these steps in understanding how we can get stuck in trauma. As I was reading the steps I felt my own trauma from my near death experience along with my mother’s when she was 13 . This is helping me notice where I get stuck in holding onto the adrenaline from the overwhelm matching when I was going through my drowning accident. When my body releases the held emotions and sensations felt and takes time to reset and feel all of my sensations I begin to feel renewed and safe in my bidy. Sane for ny mother in rekeasing her anxiety and feeling safe in her body. Thank you, thank you for sharing in this way.

  54. Crystal Hawk says:

    I’m working with a lovely young lady who has trypophobia. Sometime, not always, the sight of a cluster of three things, vegetables, natural things like acorns, beehives or just three dots on a page, can send her into a panic – tears, body sensitivity and a full body itch which can last days. You are right about increments. In our first and only session so far she was able to be comfortable looking at a picture of strawberries which she had on her phone about 3 feet closer than when she tried this at first. It was the last thing that had put her into a panic for several days. I’m being very careful to work in small increments. This is fascinating for me. EFT with laser on her ears while she tapped (Sandi Radomski taught me this) did the job. She’s committed to several more sessions and I hope to get her past this difficult phobia which is impacting her life negatively. I’ve been involved with EFT for over 20 years and just completed a Study using EFT for Anxiety so I partially know what I’m doing but could use any direction or suggestion that any of you have about this unusual phobia.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi crystal, I, at one point, for a short time, was extremely disturbed by this phenomenon(trypophobia). I found a video on YouTube that made it go away, it’s called “30 minute cure for Trypophobia” by Hypnovita using Heavening Technigues” watched it once and made it go away.

      I don’t ever think about it now really but still can’t look at those images or websites on line. Makes my stomach sick! The video works after an exposure ……it made the initial flashbacks and primal sort of horror feeling inside me abate. Maybe if I keep doing the therapy I could actually look at those images and feel no reaction.
      Anyways, good luck with your client and this strange affliction!

  55. Susan Penn says:

    Working with clients, I note that there are varying levels of capacity to hold arousal in the system without moving into thinking. It was very helpful for me to consider the expanding and contracting as something that can be pointed out to clients. Likewise, I work with clients to expand their capacity for arousal (which in many cases is aliveness, emotional states…)starting with just a small containable dose. Really appreciate this work and how it informs work with those who are not connected to the soma.

  56. Joanne Nemecek, LMSW says:

    Thank you for this. I struggle how to face the traumatic experiences in another person without overwhelming them. You have given me some good techniques.
    It reminds me of getting allergy shots – a little bit of the “toxic” exposure helps the body recognize it as non-threatening. With increased dosing, the person becomes desensitized to the allergen.

  57. Amy says:

    I am the process of a divorce from an abusive relationship. Reading about the pigeon who takes longer to “wake up” after a second fright
    makes me wonder if this is part of why it is so difficult for (usually) women to leave abusive abusive relationships. I was just thinking out loud yesterday that
    I wanted to make the decision to permanently leave or not when I was “calm” not when it was panicky, because I felt like I couldn’t trust that feeling. What I eventually realized was that I never had enough time to get calm before the next anxiety inducing event. And then I would be emotionally paralyzed again for a while. Thankfully, infinally realized that and managed the courage and strength to leave. I honestly believe that if more people understood the “refright” mechanism, people would be less judgmental and/or confused about why domestic abuse victims stay. Thank you for this. And by the way, inpractice yoga and my therapist is fully trained in EMDR both of which have helped me immensely! Thank you all!

  58. t. shaffer says:

    Whether it is trauma, fear, ego or survival…it seems to come up all the time…to some extant or another.
    And whether it is “titration” or R.A.I.N or C.A.L.M. or “concentration, clarity and equanimity” or even “this too shall pass” aren’t we just trying to take our fingers off of the panic button…a little at a time? Admittedly Trauma is the biggest and strongest panic button of all. And takes the longest time to deal with and heal with.

    I think a Buddha once said that our greatest demons are our greatest teachers or that our greatest demons protect our greatest treasures. I haven’t made friends with my demons yet, but thanks to RAIN and similar practices, they don’t scare me as much or as quickly as they used to.

    • walt stawicki says:

      first lets clear up the mis-use of the term: “From Latin daemon ‎(“genius, lar, guardian spirit”), from Ancient Greek δαίμων ‎(daímōn, “dispenser, god, protective spirit”).”
      hardly the big bad wolf, then, is it!
      Jungian psychology and many others like lucid dream work have encouraged facing the dreaded whatever and asknig “what do you want of me?” upon which…..well

      lets just say , please spend the 45 minutes to get the context and then the in depth of that whole process looks like. Time well spent. I it then pleases you, follow some of his work on Wetiko Virus to understand social and planetary implications of this “theory” which were first laid out for the western mind by Willhelm Reich, who should have had the fame and recognition Freud gained, Freud, the cowardlysell out and fake!
      Paul Levy discusses his views on trauma and spiritual/psychologically awakening, referencing his own personal experiences, and his conception of the reality-dream state in which we all live.

  59. Amin Shah says:

    Very interesting explanation, makes good sense. I wish to learn the details of how to actually do the process with my patients. Any video demonstrations on how to do it?

  60. sonia varughese says:

    Interesting to hear the word dynamic equilibrium . Is interested to hear more about it .

    • walt stawicki says:

      dynamic equilibrium is a phrase from physics and math concerning certain stable but not static situations that arise in systems Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, first brought attention to it but was called a clumsy stupid woman who couldn’t wash lab-glass. A decade later a male genius wrote about it and got recognition. If you search for the term, you will find you tube videos of solutions that alternate between color, back and forth endlessly. this is an equilibrium, but it is dynamic. It immediately came to my mind, and apparently the author of this post, that these system can be found in our bodies. My thoughts were about bi=polar swings which are not so regular as isolated chemicals in a lab, but nevertheless can be predictable within randomized limits caused by other influences in the bigger mix.

  61. Nancy says:

    I am a Yoga Tune Up teacher and we use The Roll Model Therapy Balls designed by Jill Miller to have students feel their bodies. Often Issues in their tissues arise that they did not know existed. We provide that safe place for them to feel, explore and embody themselves. Thank you for this article it helps to truly understand the impact we have on our clients supporting them in their healing. Sincerely, Nancy Drope

  62. Sami Pajunen says:

    Excellent way of thinking! Homeopathic trauma treatment. Love it!

  63. Ray Blume says:

    Penduation reminds me of Yin Yang theory.

  64. Karen says:

    Animals do develop PTSD when they are mistreated in a chronic way. They can display behaviors that would qualify for OCD or personality disorders. All of that fits the human (mammalian) models.

    • walt stawicki says:

      concept of body armoring is no new thing. It goes back to the first half of the last century.
      as for what works..what fits the “therapist” and the “patient” at the time.

      • walt stawicki says:

        sorry , the interface autoposted a previous reply. as for what i wanted to say…NO, our human models were a false separation from the animal observations any observant and curious dog owner or farmer would understand. We merely have our sophisticated . mental, time shifting representations to compound thee way we rationalize the somatic reality. Animals also have ethics. I have been corrected for stepping out of line.

  65. Tobias Schreiber says:

    Dr Levine has done trauma work a great service, by developing ways to work with the natural state of the body/mind. Thank you for your wisdom and perseverance.

  66. DrJanVan says:

    I appreciate the clear and concise organization of your formula! I have been trained in PE and EMDR. When these techniques are used according to protocol, I suspect
    they contain most if not all your steps in some form. I am looking forward to seeing how this might be true in my trauma work with my clients. Thank you again for
    your clarity.

  67. Jim Walkup says:

    Ruth and Peter,

    Thank you for this simple yet powerful summary of a way to work through trauma. I have been using some of the material for awhile. I love having it presented in such a concise formula that I can pass on to clients and colleagues. Best regards, Jim Walkup at or

  68. Jan Lucier says:

    A concise and to the point article on moving through the “stuck” places for individuals with PTSD. I will use it with my nursing students.

  69. Eric Spady says:

    I am an SE student, and it is really a wonderful model. IT is so true, trauma is stuck in the body, and we can’t get it unstuck with the cognitive alone. We need to sue the body and the nervous system to tell the story, and then the person can unwind from that trauma where it is stored. The body remembers! I am a Christian counselor, and integrate prayer and the powerful peace of God with many of my clients, and it is amazing to see what happens then!

    • Patricia says:

      I too am a Christian therapist and I agree that using prayer by calling on the power of the Holy Spirit can and does move mountains with those able to enter into that realm of being. I find it difficult thought when the person uses God in the same way they try to manipulate and control others. Have you had any positive outcomes using a persons faith when they have a narssistic personality.

    • Patricia says:

      I have a client who becomes easily distressed when invited to get in touch with her body during emotional discussions. so I’m wondering how to help her discharge and regulate and then how to find equalibrium

      • walt stawicki says:

        FRitz Prls would have her beat the hell out of a doll or some such, “show me what your emotions feel like right now.” he would have “envited/given her permission/commanded/forced/allowed her to act out and see herself

  70. Gren says:

    I really wish you had not used the homeopathy image. Desensitisation is a well established medical technique with a firm evidence base. Or, are you suggesting that this technique IS a parallel to that earlier example of “post truth” thinking, homeopathy?

    This approach sounds plausible, not so far from ACT and desensitisation methods. So bringing homeopathy into our thinking does it no service. Evidence, however, talks loudest.

    • walt stawicki says:

      I second your position. desensitization yes, pseudo science no, no, no And NO

  71. I’m not sure what some of the ways will be that I can use these 9 steps in my work with patients – yet.
    I will need to think about it. I see different types of people and they may not all be ready for this type of 9-step intervention. They may be ready for some aspects… but again, I will need to think about it. I would be particularly curious to see how it would work with this population: But Thank you for giving us this important info. It’s very much appreciated.

  72. stevie says:

    Can your method heal people who have been raped or sexually abused? If so can you explain how please? Thank you

  73. Gretchen Lewis says:

    By allowing clients to stay present with their traumas, they can master them, not by avoiding or running from them. Ofcourse always maintaining a sense of safety. Almost like desensitization, but not without simultaneously validating the actual horror of the trauma itself.

  74. stevie says:

    Hi can this be used where sexual abuse has happened so the person can make a full ‘re overy

  75. Mrs Pascoe says:

    Help…. Our daughter has not overcome her fear of falling, due to many seizures. In fact she is becoming more and more fearful, although we are trying to help her . This fear has been gradually getting worse slowly over the last 16 years….. Professionals have attempted, but no one has stayed long enough to work with her to the end. Our daughter has to gain their trust. It is taking too long …. whilst our daughter becomes so entrenched in her fear. Very concerned….

    • Consider researching neurofeedback and biofeedback training. Neurofeedback for the seizures and anxiety and biofeedback for the anxiety. The biofeedback will teach her the skills to calm her Autonomic Nervous System herself. I use the HeartMath Institute emWave.

    • Janet E Graysen says:

      I met a man who has seizures from an accident. He told me that he had many every day and then he got a therapy dog and his anxiety (which he felt caused an increase in seizers) and number of seizures lessened significantly. There are only two dogs that do this and apparently they smell system changes early enough to make a difference. He had an adorable rat terrier. The other type is a Golden. the same two dogs are used for type 1 diabetes.

  76. jayne dough says:

    As a survivor of OIDV ( Officer Involved Domestic Violence- I was relocated to several different states and had an identity change to stay alive. I was blessed to be referred to a Somatic Trained therapist. I had a particularly nasty Panic attack, and while the paramedics were working on me- I was able to gain control and avoid the stroke I was heading towards. I am so grateful for the chance of real recovery from the trauma I had received at the hands of my abuser.

  77. Pat Eagleman-wichita,Ks. says:

    Very good article. It actually explains emotional regulation and how it is done. The supportive help is most important.

  78. Heidi H says:

    I’ve read this article a couple times already. My therapist has even read “walking the tiger,” and I participated in all of the sounds true neuroscience training summit, and many of nicabm posts and free videos. It all sounds great, and both my therapist and I want to know, “how do you do it, how do I apply, how does my therapist guide me to applying this theory day to day?” I have traumas that I completed prolonged exposure for and haven’t had PTSD symptoms since. I do still have a cognitive belief distortion that I repond with self-inflirted harm that is very tied to trauma. Without unraveling and breaking that link in trauma based belief we do not know how to stop harm as well. Please don’t just post comment, please reply.

    • Krisztina says:

      Breathing helps with body awareness and self regulations. The breath moves us through those big feeling. Being aware of our own breathing mechanism is the key to regulate our own emotions. Traumatized people often run away from their own feelings by controllling their own breathing mechanism. Paying attention to the breathing mechanism also makes you present, moves you away from the past. Integrative breathing, rebirthing session with a trained breather can help you through the big emotions. Staying present with the breath when those big emotions arise is the key to move through them, and arrive to a place when we can integrate them. Breathing session can help, but it is also important to pay attention to the breath throughout the day especially when we feel triggered.. After a while we can learn how to breath properly to calm ourself down and stay present. I am talking from experience by learning to deal with my own traumas. I am not sure who researched this topic.
      I also agree with one of the poster who says connection heals. we have to heal our relationships, and find people we can trust. In a trauma we stop trusting ourself, others and the world therefore we isolate ourself. Adding insult to injury. healing is a complex journey. More information we have about the complexity of this we can target it better.
      We also have to be aware of our own self talk, but that probably goes without saying. We can retraumtize ourself pretty much daily by our own self talk…

    • I took the SE training and it changed my life, who I now am as a human, as a wife, mother, friend, and coach.
      Now, There are definitely thought patterns that I can recognize, however they do not have ‘a hold’ on me as before. Every time an ‘old thought pattern’ shows up, I go into my body, “what am I feeling in my body now.” Every time there is an uncomfortable sensation that is kinda ‘stuck’, over coupled with the thought, I sit with it . . . give it space, watch my judgments . . . and it shifts.
      I do not have words to describe the freedom I feel, from addictions, trauma from abuse and loss of child. The traumas have no ‘hold’, no ‘charge’, the triggers cannot ‘take me over’, they don’t even ‘sting’ anymore. Also, being on the Autism Spectrum, and having a child on the Spectrum, I can tell you that body-awareness has made life sooooo much easier! Just ride the wave. My daughters do to, on the spectrum and off the spectrum :-)
      If you are looking for a therapist, make sure they have taken the SE training. Body-awareness and self-regulation changed my life. I AM ALIVE :-)

      • Wholistic therapist says:

        Wow your post is very inspiring, I am so happy for you…..I love the I AM ALIVE….. Hope to join you on that one, dealing with a subconscious death wish learnt in the womb….which sabotages all forward movement….. So thank you for your clear share. God bless

    • Danny says:

      As far as my understanding is, you just allow the feeling. You sit there and allow it to happen and don’t get in the way. That’s it.

  79. Kerrie says:

    It’s a great basis, however i see holes in the treatment; such as what methods are used to manage, states of high arousal etc? How is equilibrium obtained, in a method based practice?

    • Actually, you just allow ‘a little’ then you go out again. As you do that you get stronger, feel less afraid, and feel more confident. So there will not be that high arousal states if you do it right. As you are building your ‘container’, ‘body strength’, the arousal will not feeeeeel that horrible anymore and you can allow more and more without getting overwhelmed.

  80. NIQO says:

    I dissociated heavily during the time I was in middle school. I stopped believing in the reality of the world. My belief was based on my experience of what the world felt like. This was the truth for me. I didn’t know what was happening, and didn’t have a reference point for what was happening to me. I didn’t know if there were other people who were having this experience. I felt total and utter isolation. There was nothing that could connect me to other people. Existential loneliness at its most extreme. I learned a lot about reality and life during those times. I don’t think most people in the world fully understand the tender illusions they are under on a constant basis. I gained direct insight into what some of these are. I was told later that this was a defense mechanism called derealization. Other have experienced this as well. I didn’t experience it as a defense, because it caused me so much greater harm than anything else could have in my social world. It effectively eliminated my defense against this world. It put me at the mercy of those who were undeserving of it. Having returned from this journey, I am now able to defend myself against this type of experience. For those who cannot (or will not): If you see someone who is quiet, ‘socially awkward’, friendless, alone, spaced out… offer them a hand. If you mean it sincerely, it could mean the world to them. People need each other, and when you can take someone’s vulnerability and safeguard it, that is what real human connection is made from. Would you rather use the other person to elevate yourself, or would you rather be their friend. Everyone has the potential to be great and beautiful, sometimes we just need a friend to help us to remember that we are worthy of real love and caring. Be a true friend and you will never be alone again. When you are lost they will find you. And to all the beautiful, lost souls swimming in the dark waters of reality, you are not forgotten and you are not alone. You are loved eternally and without exception. You are us and us you. You are exploring the depths of reality that most are too scared to navigate. You are bringing back to us knowledge of ourselves and our plight. You are mining the darkest, most treacherous waters, and you do it without recognition nor understanding. You do it without being able to be validated on any level by any other person, because you are living what hasn’t been brought into the light of consensual reality. You are living a larger portion of reality than most people are ready for. For you sacrifices I honor you. And for those who go and don’t come back, I can’t understand your experience fully, but it is my experience that reality compensates us for what we lose many times over, (sometimes in ways that can be difficult sometimes to fully even understand). You are torches all of you into the darkest unknown, thank you and know you are loved. -NIQO

    • Wholistic therapist says:

      Thank you so much for that share……I feel you…..

    • As we all can feel lost and disconnected, I believe people with PTSD and/or Spectrum Neuro Diversity can truly feel as if they are from a different planet. I sure did.
      Dr. Bruce Alexander says in his book “The Globalization of Addiction” that we are addicted because we are in pain, we are up rooted and moved around, and have become dislocated, from our families, from our communities, churches, clubs, or whatever we used to belong to. This condition in turn makes us disconnected and off we go . . . into some kind of addiction . . . because it hurts too much to feel . . . any sensation!
      So the opposite of addiction is NOT sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection. So yes, offer that hand, that smile, that time to connect, and you will have a loyal friend . . . maybe forever. When we feel that we matter, that you care, we feel safe. And when we feel safe we are the most loyal people. You will not get rid of us :-)
      I was told once “Eva, the best compliant for you is NOT ‘Eva, I feel great about you’, the best compliant for you is ‘Eva, I feel great about myself when I am with you’.” WOW, did that make me think. How do people feel about themselves when they are with you?

    • melissa says:

      So moving to read NIQO. Thank you for sharing the wisdom from your journey. I would love to link this to my counselling website. how would you feel about that?

  81. Thank-you for this concise, clear explanation, Peter and Ruth! It compliments your book in An Unspoken Voice well. I apply the principles you describe as a foundation for my numerous workshops in Psychosocial Support and in workshops to teach others how to lead workshops and then to supervise their work throughout South Sudan. Our basic approach is Capacitar ( and I add presentations on steps to forgiveness, and on healthy/unhealthy ways to express anger, fear, grief, sexuality. Since we are living in the midst of destitution and violence in this young, war-torn nation, we find it extremely practical to use Capacitar’s multicultural, POPULAR EDUCATION method in wellness and healing from trauma.
    We do the workshops with a wide range of participants: women, men, children, teachers, medical staffs, government representatives, prisoners, uniformed (armed) ‘services’/ soldiers/police), interfaith leaders, special needs in large groups and small groups. Many are illiterate or have little education. It is deeply encouraging to see them come alive as they begin to breathe deeply and do basic physical exercises like tapping, hand holds, therapeutic touch, some Tai Chi etc and then to become aware of how they feel, which is often dramatically different from when they came. It is a gentle, basically ‘feel good’ approach! Workshops are generally 2 -3 full days for general participants, 4-5 days for trainees. I wrote Key Principles from your book mainly and this article and then shared it with the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Platform of the NGO Forum in South Sudan. THANK-YOU!!!!
    I am a Canadian, living and working with Solidarity with South Sudan. . .

  82. I LOVE “dynamic equilibrium!” I will be using that phrase.

    As a TRE provider, I use all of these steps in our workshops and with individual clients. I have to say that I was required to read Levine’s works as part of my certification, though these lessons were taught repeatedly, though a tad differently. Pulsation – one of Dr. Berceli’s favorite words, and one I think he borrowed from Stanley Keleman. Indeed, a time of contraction, which can be discomfiting.

  83. Sara joy David says:

    I am using this with clients in the health service provider group so that they become healed healers not wounded ones. It made the difference for me personally. I find SAFETY is key and Felt respect. This becomes a self-care tool.

  84. Mark Hoelter says:

    My wife suffers from complex/developmental PTSD. She tried the body approach, TRE in particular (and when I say tried, I mean she really gave it as good a go as you can imagine; she doesn’t do things part way). At first the TRE seemed to relieve the trauma, then it didn’t; in fact, it got worse. So she stopped. Quite by accident and very recently we happened on something new called “brainspotting,” which is a kind of variation on EMDR. We approach this fearfully (having tried years of talk therapy, then the TRE, then a course of neurofeedback). So is this going to be another disappointment? The therapist said this is going to first make things worse, then better, and there’s no way to tell how long until better comes. Right now we have to say it’s making things worse.

    I can’t begin to say what a nightmare this is.

    • So, I was told to do cathartic breath work. I tell you . . . laying on the floor in fetal position screaming, crying, being coach to “feel deeper.” I did this at least once a month for 5 years. I thought I did a ‘good job’, the practitioner said I did. I felt the relief and even endorphin that Dr Levine talks about. And then a few days later it would start again, tension in my chest, my throat would be closing, stomach cramps, and I would call my practitioner and she would say to come in. For five (5) years!
      THEN, I stumbled over Dr. Levine’s “Wakening the Tiger”, took the three years SE training and I CAME ALIVE!

      I totally believe you DO NOT benefit from falling back in the hot tub and BURN again and again and again. It will only re-traumatize you. Just my take on it!
      I am FREE, from all my symptoms thanks to SE.

    • Cari says:

      Please consider that TRE and Somatic Experiencing are NOT the same thing and they do not provide the same results. While TRE may allow the body to discharge energy, itbdoesnt necessarily allow for the somatic memory integrate or allow the different parts of the body to complete the actions that it wanted to do when they actually experienced the trauma. I have tried both of these and Somatic Experiencing hands down had been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I have been doing it for the last 6 months and have seen amazing results. I am recently retired military and some of the things I love about Somatic Experiencing is that it isn’t talk therapy. I don’t have to tell my stories over and over again with little to no results. My practitioner helps guide me into the sensations of my body and my body gets to release the stories that have been trapped in it all these years without scaring me to the point that i run from allowing it ir anyone else to help me. It’s a beautiful thing.

      • Sooooo true! That’s the ticket. No going back and re hash the past.
        I tell my clients to “let your body tell the story” and it works wonders.
        Thanks for bringing up that distinction!

    • Did your wife learn TRE from a provider, or by book/DVD? The difference might explain her experience. Also, there are some providers that are more qualified than others to deal with C-PTSD. I have had great success with mine using TRE. I also had a provider.

    • Helena says:

      Hi Mr Hoelter, I’m so sorry to hear about your experiences-did you read the entire article above-specifically the detox process-I presume this is what she felt. The key is to fully accept the stage and cry, release as much as possible. These emotions have been pent up for a long time and it is the body trying to get it out. Many say that at this stage they cry alot but they don’t know why, then after they’ve fully cried, released full throttle all of these emotions, they feel much lighter and their lives shift dramatically for the better.

      If you are still against TRE, I would suggest EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) and MR (Matrix Re-imprinting)

      I hope you both find what you’re looking for X

  85. Jacqui lewis says:

    I love the sound of this method of treating trauma.
    Do you know of anyone in Sydney Australia whom would work in the same way please?

  86. Richmond Heath says:

    In my experience there is much more to tremors/trembling/shaking/body movements as a re-organsiational growth impulse than just the ‘trauma discharge’ paradigm often presented in both SE and TRE. For people who initially require co-regulation of their recovery, this is a great article with great processes to help them get started on their healing journey.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Totally agree and SE as practiced does too. It is about building in resources to counteract the trauma. But also, a lot of SE practitioners are bringing in the awareness of the needs for attachment repair, work on the level before episodic memory can even form, and even working that the level of birth trauma, because these experiences form the foundation of our perception of life and even these deficits can be repaired and new neural connections formed. Examples are NARM as taught by Lawrence Heller, also a senior SE teacher and DARE as taught by Diane Poole-Heller also a senior SE teacher. I am sure you can find these and other resources on Google. Also look of Stephen Porges and Polyvagal Theory. All have great youtube videos too as does Peter Levine.

      • Sara joy David says:

        Yes these people and this process are wonder ful, I am filled with wonder at the results.

  87. Shay says:

    How do I find a therapist who can help me through this process? I have done a great deal of trauma recovery on my own and feel this would be highly beneficial.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      The Somatic Experiencing Training Institute has a list on its website of certified practitioners. They are going to change their URL but I am sure the old one still works. Try There are thousands of certified practitioners all over the wolrd. Good luck.

  88. sukie says:

    Extremely valuable work — thank you.

  89. Ada Grasselli says:

    Thank you!!

  90. Somatic Experiencing transformed my life and my life’s work. It only took seeing a couple of Peter Levine’s demonstrations and a little theory to change my way of working, take his training, and integrate SE with my other modalities, including, now, Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises. I teach my work as Somatic Trauma Resolution, but it’s heart is SE, for which I am most grateful!

    • Cari says:

      Good evening, Sharon! Is the Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises that you are referring to TRE? I am curious, because SE has transformed my life as well as I have been seeing an SE practitioner for the last 6 months after spending 26 years in the military and it has helped me tremendously. I tried TRE a few times, but my practitioner did advice me while TRE is a good tool for certain circumstances it does not provide necessarily provide the opportunity for a completion process for people that are doing it on their own. Just wondering what the thoughts are on this. Thank you.

  91. Dani Mortenson says:

    This report really resonated with my approach with clients! I intend to use a holistic blend of EMDR, Brainspotting, Trauma Releasing Exercises, Craniosacral therapy, and Myofascial Release. LMT & LPC-in-training.

  92. Shelley says:

    I utilize somatic psychotherapy with EMDR and absolutley support Peter Levine and his work.

  93. Mike; therapist; Willoughby, Ohio says:

    Thank you, Peter, for your wonderful insights and thank you, Ruth, for bringing them to me; this is very helpful.

  94. Armand says:

    Thank you, I believe this will be quite helpful.

  95. Jana says:

    This is great!

  96. I’m not sure. It would be helpful to see him/someone do a demonstration of those steps. I am reading a couple of his books so my get more expanded directions/insights from them

    Thank you.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Go to youtube. Agreed, it makes more sense to watch this. Also, this is not do it yourself stuff because safety and tracking are hard to create by yourself.

  97. Nik says:

    Homeopathy is a bad analogy, unless you are intending to say that your method is completely non-scientific. A homeopathic dose is not tiny; it is nonexistent.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Notice perhaps how triggered you are by that word. Can you settle and allow that Peter Levine is talking about how sometimes people need to discharge the experience is such tiny doses, since anything more will overwhelm them, that it seems almost like homeopathy. It is a metaphor, and for some trauma survivors, completely apt.

  98. Jude Martin, HHC says:

    I am ending up a year long Dialectic Behavior Therapy treatment program soon. At this clinic De. Edna Foa’s (U of Penn.) Prolonged Exposure Therapy is the treatment of choice for trauma. I am not sure it has been a treatment that fits for me.
    Do you have any feedback on how these 2 therapies compare?
    Thank you, Peter Levine, PhD, and Ruth Buczynski, PhD.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Yes, DBT is a helpful resource, but it is still top down. SE is about providing healing from the bottom up, healing the breeches in the nervous system that came, developmentally from experiences that were too threatening to tolerate and NEVER got resolved, for may possible reasons. So the charge is still there, ready to blow. DBT is about managing and reducing the behaviors that result from the nervous system attempting to cope. DBT might bring the adult self more in the present and more in control but it does not usually touch the younger part who is stuck in the nightmares.

  99. Elaine Andrepont says:

    Great concepts and thought anaology.
    The actual deal that I expereinced is the hyper alert protective mode being stimulated within the dynamics of group hazing, bullying work related sabatage, threats, hacking and putting a screw in my tire. For no reason but to find out what I was being offered as a salary and to get me back for telling a manager and for being competitive jealousies.
    So to compare animals fear and protection for which is basic to humans quenching multiply dimensions for
    personal satiation.
    With humans we are at war!
    Arsenial is for payback or for greed, jealousy, revenge, competition, job security or power and heiarcy within the clan. Sabatage and creulty comes into play. Humans are devious and dishonest and are methodic. Animals are swift and work on instinct.
    People suffer prolonged emotional damage, etc.
    It’s not all physical. Truly the problem is the system.
    Not the victim, not reforming the victim or revictimizing the victim. That’s what is wrong with our system.
    The source of the problem is how we teach our children.
    I have plenty more to say but my time is limited.

  100. I need some tangible examples of real people/clients in these real steps, so I know what the operational definitions are and I can more readily identify them and be congruently connected with my client.

  101. Nina Hipperson says:

    This is a very helpful explanation of the process that has happened to me repeatedly as I have worked to resolve my own developmental trauma one bit at a time over the course of my 75 years (and counting!), This week I was able to work thru an important fear/rage stuck place (dating to infant perceptions) and am enjoying the resulting expansion. I can identify with several of the process principles Dr. Levine mentions and I really appreciate his sharing this very valuable cognitive understanding. I am also extremely grateful to the authors of “Healing Deveopmental Trauma” (L. Heller & A. LaPierre) and Bessel Van Der Kolk (The Body Keeps the Score). After reading both these books last summer I’ve been able to use many of the principles outlined in Peter Levine’s article. It has been so life affirming for me that these developmental issues are now being understood and addressed! I finally felt “seen” and more importantly I can now see myself with genuine compassion and hope.

  102. Kathy Finley, therapist, Spokane, WA says:

    Very helpful, although the client that most comes to mind for this is halfway across the country now, so I’m not sure how I could use this with her in a distance setting, but the approach makes really good sense. Thanks!

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      SE can be done on Skype or Facetime.

  103. J says:

    What are your steps

  104. Jim Lentz says:

    To Simon: Thanks for your reply & would like to hear more from Ruth, Dr Levine or others who have experience/knowledge with EMDR &/or Brainspotting for treating PTSD/trauma.

  105. Jane Trimble, Social Work, Malvern PA USA says:

    Thank you for the comparison between humans and animals…that makes so much sense! and it is a concept that is easy to understand and to share!

  106. Willis Blackmore says:

    Wow! This makes so much sense, logically and intuitively!

    • Willis Blackmore says:

      Wow! This makes so much sense, logically and intuitively!

  107. I am an Integrative Neuromuscular Therapist in private practice for 26 years. I incorporate a very meditative state, touch that is appropriate for the various tissues–nerve tissue responds differently than muscle, etc. I find that what is going to work varies from client to client and with those in a less acutely traumatized state, the experience is more buried or compensated for and therefore can take time and patience. However, trust is a key component and is built organically, one-on-one over time. After this many years, I experience my end of the work as listening in. And often, there is nothing more to do than listen in. Often the client is completely unaware of what is being heard and I have had many, many instances when it took months for it to arises naturally in the consciousness of the client. I feel that a critical part of the process of developing trust in the therapeutic setting has to do with subtlety. One of the biggest mistakes a therapist can make is to forge into high intensity work with a client who is not yet, “ready”. Also, the use of language is critical–less is more. I completely agree with the characterization of the early work in rebirthing type therapies–the goal is not re-experiencing the trauma but much more gently becoming aware of the ways in which it has shaped us, which often falls beneath our awareness and becomes integrated into the whole system on multiple dimensions. Entrainment is one of the key tools in my work and I find creates bodily relaxation while maintaining some mind awareness, trauma and sensation can be approached without overwhelm and then language can be used to give guidance as far as what might occur as well as to follow up with the client the following day to mitigate confusion and capture critical feedback.

  108. Darcy Varnum says:


  109. Elizabeth Martin says:

    This is a nice outline of Dr. Levine’s method. I recommend reading his books which offer a thorough explanation of the process as well as specific exercises.

  110. Betsy says:

    Thank you for posting. I am not at all questioning this method because it sounds really effective, but I’m wondering if the premise is correct that “animals in the wild don’t develop the same symptoms.” Are we sure about that? Animals in the wild experience trauma on a regular basis, and most survive while some do not. In a similar vein, animals in captivity and animals kept as pets are often subjected to trauma, and they can develop real psychological problems. What intrigues me is why do some animals (including humans) go through trauma without developing PTSD symptoms, while others do?

    • Amanda says:

      This is an area where some research has been done, and that research is pointing to attachment style as at least an important contributing factor in the development of PTSD. Those of us with insecure attachment styles have a high risk for developing PTSD while those with secure attachment styles do not appear to develop PTSD, even after experiencing severe trauma. As social beings, we humans apparently need healthy attachment and support to be able to withstand trauma.

    • Tamara, Student, Canada says:

      Wonderful insight and a great question, Betsy! I think you’re on to something. Yes, animals do go experience trauma as well and some recover more quickly and completely than others, I’ve seen that simply with my own pets. This would be wonderful to explore and understand better — for humans and animals alike.

  111. Bridget says:

    This is an awesome article. Our students are experiencing TRAUMA all around them….I can even relate this article.

  112. Tom Hill says:

    Great article on trauma – please forward information on courses you provide based on Dr. Levine’s work.

  113. Laurie Story says:

    I thank you for these post, I have PSTD.

  114. This is a beautiful distillation of the process. I am grateful to Dr. Peter Levine for describing it so vividly. This is the process in a nutshell. One step flows right into the next. It is so gratifying to witness the evolving as you work with each unique individual or with multiple members of a family.

  115. Geoffrey Levens says:

    Many years ago I took a training from Sharon Porter who studied extensively with Dr Levine and had combined these methods with very gentle crainiosacral and Polarity therapies. The training was truly life changing and I have seen many many miracles!

  116. Dorothy says:

    Thank you for this great post. I’ve read Peter Levine’s books and found them very informative and helpful with many clients.

    However, I am currently working with someone for whom the body is such a scary place that even the first step in PL’s phases, ie the tapping on one hand and saying this is my hand, it belongs to me, caused her to go into overwhelm and dissociate.

    I know she feels safe with me and trust me and we’ve built up a ‘safe place’ for her to imagine where she can feel additionally protected. But any and every thought around her body brings back this overwhelm. If anyone has any thoughts or advice on how to manage this so she can feel more able to befriend her body (as Levine calls it), I’d be very grateful to know.

    There are various traumas that took place over a number of years so it’s complex. Thank you.

    • Geoffrey Levens says:

      No dates showing so don’t know how old this is but you could borrow a page from Neurolinguistic Programming and have client just imagine sitting in very quiet room, safe in her own home, watching TV. And on the screen she sees a movie of herself, tapping her own hand, etc. If that is too much, then the woman on TV can be in same setting (own home, safe, watching TV) and seeing herself tapping on the TV show. You can move it back any number of layers until it is comfortable enough. Then as it gets easier, collapse one layer at a time, verrrrrrrry gradually, until it is just her in the room with you in real time doing it. Then you can mover forward from there. This technique is often used with great success in NLP for working w/ phobias. Would love to know how this works for her/you!

  117. Alex Kronstadt, Ph.D. says:

    sounds similar – not exact – to Reich’s thought, which gave rise to Bioenergetics…… but adds (critically) a restructuring of human bio-system, which may well
    be a necessity because release of pent up traumatic experience is insufficient…. and the “re-set” process is likely natural….. not manufactured and with temporal
    features both physical and psychological.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      I was a believer in and a total failure at bioenergetics because it seemed to require me to push through the beginning of activation and make it bigger in order to get healing. I worked with some good people but they did not have the skill of tracking the autonomic nervous system and going to threshold and allowing the inner settling. The emphasis was on freeing yourself up to release the held energies, usually in a cathartic way. I am an SEP now (disclaimer) but I can give you an example from the second year of training, when we did an exercise where several people held me up, so that I was vertical but did not have to actively hold myself. I started to feel a rush of energy coming up and defaulted to my bioenergetic mindset of “have to let this get really big” and at the point my head started spinning. I was stuneed to realize that I had experienced reaching my threshold and that trying to go further just resulted in my starting to dissociate. In bioenergetics, I would often go to freeze and shame. SE is about tracking wherever the client is, or you are, and knowing that this is exactly where they ARE and then making it safe or possible for them to experiment a tiny bit (if they are at threshold), of stepping over and coming back. This sounds a little abstract and really there is no rule, except to find a way to help the person who is stuck in threat physiologically, no matter how much their minds say that they should not be, normalize and accept that physiologic response and being to free it up. The big shaking does not necessarily occur.

  118. Dave Overstreet says:

    Dr. Levine has given us so many good ideas and methods to learn. Thank you!

  119. Christine says:

    It would be helpful if you could explain the nine steps with the use of an example, i.e. a patient who went through all of them and how it was concretly done with the help of a therapist. Thanks.

  120. Timothy Deslippe says:

    Such a relief to have approaches that understand and highlight the basic functioning of the body. It is amazing how much we can learn from observing nature, biological systems and the natural healing powers of the body.

  121. Geneveive, Osteopathic Chiropractor & Teacher says:

    Thank you Ruth, for this interview with Peter Levine. Peter, your excellent nine-step method for transforming trauma makes a lot of intuitive sense &, on a more personal level, I can identify very clearly my own movement through these stages, over the past 23 years, since extremely severe complex trauma. By the Grace of God + a lot of work on myself, with & without therapeutic intervention, I’m beginning to override the deleterious impact the trauma has had on me – Alleluia! Your method also clearly indicates to me what I still need to do more work on.

    As a Peer Support Worker & Consumer Educator, as well as trained & experienced Osteopathic Chiropractor (i.e. dual degree; D.C., D.O.) & Teacher (Grad DipED, WT & Cert IV), I will also be able to reach out & assist other trauma survivors in their journey of healing & recovery.

  122. Jeannie Campbell says:

    I found reading this really helpful ,I had a head injury about 2 years ago and have all the feelings you mention and more dizziness ,feeling faint ,fearful and new and old body sensations which has changed the dynamics of who I am ,I dream constantly of collapsing ,everything is louder now and I find if I talk to load move too fast hear to loud a sound ,my body is really shaken up and my ears hurt ,my neck stiffens ….I panic and do not know what is going on ..I have to calm myself down ,which is hard when working ,at home I have to rest ….reading what you say seems to make sense and I will pass this on to my councillor so that we can both look deeper into a way forward …Thank you .

  123. This is an excellent explanation of how to deal with trauma and the analogy with animals is very interesting and makes a great deal of sense.

  124. Jessica says:

    EMDR is this and so much more. Why not certify in that instead? It is 90% effective for PTSD and empiracally researched. I know first hand as a multiple complex trauma survivor that it is a miracle.

  125. Patricia Meadows says:

    Thank-you Ruth and Peter for sharing this very concise, yet precise overview of the nine-step method we use in Somatic Experiencing for transforming trauma. I look forward to sharing it with my clients so that they have both an overall framework and a simple, clear explanation the skills and practices I am teaching them and guiding them to use.

  126. I recently worked for someone who is trained in Somatic Experiencing and found my second hand contact with the approach incredibly helpful. As a phenomenologically oriented therapist, I found it provided a nice access point to those lived experiences that either couldn’t be articulated verbally or remained stubborn despite extensive verbal interventions. The approach has been an excellent tool, similar to Gendlin’s Focusing, for helping my practice bridge the mythical mind-body divide and become more sincerely holistic.

  127. Annemarie says:

    Excellent !! Thank you Ruth for passing on this helpful information. It is I feel, easy to read for clients and hopefully along with learning and understanding the importance of what is meant by a felt sense through focusing on their body reactions when trauma impacts be it a ie. mild fall to a horrific event (depending on a human beings experience of said event) learning to stay connected to self can give clients power to be with themselves (to stay connected to the memory of the event though can be a courageous thing to do for the client, in order to move forward , to experience the bodily response and not shy away can be for many terrifying) the therapist also needs to have the courage to manage the space , building self trust for self and the client to do same and in turn trust between therapist and client very important . I would guess anyone who has had a traumatic event could relate to this if they slow down what they need to understand in the meaning of what is meant by a felt body sense. Especially clients who find it more difficult to manage the impact of trauma after the distance of the event in their lives , which for many may have been little or no support and just got on with living with out understanding what has happened to them and putting the name anxiety or depression as their label to describe their condition.

    Annemarie McQuade
    Accredited Psychological therapist
    N Ireland

  128. EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, encompasses much of this same technique. Going slowly, while tapping on acupuncture points, allows the client to feel the high intensity of their emotions as those emotions get tapped down to zero. Over and over that “pendulation” goes as the client realizes just what Dr. Levine said – they realize they have a tool to master how they feel, allowing them to once again step into real living!

  129. onno nieveen says:

    step 4 homeopathic aproach: we have been working with homeopathy 2.0 (we name it PPD resonance) in African refugee camps, genocide victims were able to sleep properly after 5 years of suffering. Just listening to the resonances. 2015 we treated 100.000+ people
    A holistic treatment including treating the reptillian brain is the way to go, PPD resonance works on the reptillian level.

    People in the West find it hard to believe, so my invitation to you all to try it on, let me know through the contact form (we choose this ‘middle of the road’ website name to avoid discussions with non-believers…)

    regards Onno (the netherlands)

  130. Jan says:

    In my own meditation on the body practice I discovered that if I relaxed, my body moved into shaking. I regularly lay on the floor and shook for about 2 years and this seemed to help with overcoming trauma.

  131. Ernie Cowger, Professor says:

    Thank you for this informative piece.

  132. Yeah OK, but with prolonged trauma you may not come back for months or even realize you are gone/detached/dissociation and when you can’t get out of the fear, this is all a fantasy.

  133. Ross Adams says:

    Moving towards self regulation with the steps form an important part of much of the work I do.

  134. Amy says:

    So, I am curious… is step 8 equivalent to cognitive restructuring and step 9 equivalent to grounding?

  135. Christine House says:

    I experienced severe trauma when I broke down and was hospitalized for 12 weeks and put on drugs. I felt worse and no one knew what to do with me. A dear friend took me to her home with her parents who understood trauma because their son had been traumatized after an accident and for 20 years they had him there living with them. He felt for me and we meditated every morning at 6am as I was so anxious and insistent. We walked every day too…me crying mostly. Osho’s Dynamic Meditation helped release energy for the first time and we did it every morning. Then my friend had a Peter Levine book he had read so many times and things started happening with me that he felt could be OK. Shaking and crying and vomiting as I went inward. Always he kept his hand on my back and I felt safe. He was frightened occasionally with my stuff coming up but over a few years and much grief because I lost many family members and pets and my own lifestyle in that time. Finally I let go….surrendered and let everything go…. I went on some Buddhist retreats and changed my life gradually through all the anxiety of it all…I could always look at it. We do Focusing now as what we did, now has a name. I help many people through with this method and the experience that I have been through. My friend has improved too. Helping me helped him. We are great friends now.

  136. cynthia hill says:

    this was excellent! Do you know of a practitioner in Salt Lake who could do this work with me? Blessings

    • Ashley Greenwell, PhD says:

      There are a good number of well trained, licensed trauma providers in SLC, UT. Depending upon your preferences, I can provide referral options if you would like to email me at

  137. Sherri Rosen says:

    This work changed my life, so much so that I studied the work to give back. Profound. Profund work.

  138. Carissa says:

    Peter Levines 3 year training has transformed my practice and transformed my life. I have studied many modalities in trauma as I mainly work with emergency services workers and nothing has compared to the profound work of Peter Levines Somatic Experiencing. I am so grateful to have found this work.

  139. Jim Lentz says:

    Is there a place along the steps (esp 3-8) where EMDR or Brainspotting would be useful to relieving events/states which have caused the person to get “stuck in these high levels of arousal or in low-level, shut-down levels of arousal & dissociation.” Would like to get feedback from Dr Levine, Ruth, or any others out there who have knowledge &/or experience with these methods in relieving PTSD/dissociation. Thanks & thanks to Dr Levine & Ruth for the Nine-Step Method.

    • Simon says:

      Pending replies from Ruth, my conception of the place of EMDR/Brainspotting/Tapping here is steps 3 – 5-ish: experiencing the contraction/release, titration, and some corrective experience. All these techniques get the person to re-experience the feelings/memories while staying in the room and connected to the therapist (bringing trauma into inter-subjective relations, making it a “third thing” shared between client and therapist), and including activity (eyes, tapping, …) in their new, real-time experience of the (memories/sensations of the) trauma.

      Hope that’s helpful and not too wide of what Ruth would say.

  140. Thank you Peter and Ruth
    This is an excellent, straight-forward explanation of how to work with traumatic experiences.

  141. Penn says:

    Am familiar with Dr Levine’s work and have read his book Waking the Tiger but this is a very nice summary and way to introduce the process.

  142. susan p. king says:

    I am 82 yrs. old and have suffered from fear and shame all my life, “knowing” that something was wrong with me. I am a Buddhist meditator and find the new understandings of how the brain functions awesome. Tara Brach who is a Buddhist meditation teacher has written an awesome book, “Radical Acceptance” which some of you might find an interesting addition to your practice. Dr. Levine may be familiar with it.

  143. Christine Anna says:

    Yes Alison . . as a psychotherapist I too have looked at the possibility of doing this training . . there’s some in London as well as Edinburgh . . have you seen that?

  144. Todd says:

    Would love to gain mastery of use, especially being a newly designated LCSW:-)

  145. Andy says:

    A question I have is why some people, when exiting freeze states, are so frightened by their own fight/flight responses that they go back into immobilization, whereas others are able to allow their fight/flight responses to successfully reset their systems. What makes the former group different from the latter? Does the former group have more difficulties shifting in and out of fight/flight states? Are they fundamentally at odds with their fight/flight states… ie are fight/flight states less integrated and thus more overwhelming to them?

  146. Bev says:

    I am a TRE Provider (Trauma Release exercises) which is a modality closely aligned with the principles of Peter Levine’s work. Have seen wonderful results with this work. As Peter mentions, with a build up of trauma it is important to almost ‘reset’ the nervous system and TRE is very helpful in doing that, after a few sessions people usually move from a state of hypervigilance to being much calmer, less anxiety etc. To watch a very interesting video clip showing the freeze response in the wild have a look at This shows a troop of baboons chasing away a leopard from an impala which it had captured.

    • Amazing to watch and so relevant and “normalising” somatic experiences after trauma! Thank you for sharing!
      I am a Bowen Technique (Bowtech) Therapist and i consider Bowen an amazing tool to switch The Central Nervous System from Sympathetic to Parasympathetic state and balance the body – recovery after trauma can definitely be shortened. In conjunction with an emotional liberation modality, it can recover and help towards a thriving level!

    • Thanks for the link for the YouTube video, Bev. Beautiful to watch!

    • Linda Midalia says:

      Hi Bev
      Thanks for this…what an amazing video and how apt!

  147. Dennie says:

    Thanks so much for the detailed reminder that healing can begin with the slowing of the encounter with sensation – mindfulness – exit – re-establishing.

  148. Felicia Calm says:

    I’m also not a therapist but this article seemed to explain the following to me. Nearly 3 months ago, my husband died suddenly, just as I succeeded in getting him to the ER. He fell against me, then to the floor, and I never saw him alive again. Soon after that my mother had some type of breakdown triggered by my husband’s sudden death, and I had to take her to the ER, where she was admitted to the psych ward. I have been functioning surprisingly well under the circumstances – socializing so I don’t have to be alone, working, and most significantly, rearranging and redecorating the apartment, driven by I didn’t know what. I’ve started collecting house plants and most importantly, I decided to make my new bedroom in my previous home office and paint it dark green. it was an enormous amount of work that I had more than enough energy to do myself. the driving force was a desire to create a forest-like cave for myself. as I’ve gotten close to finishing, (it is coming out beautifully) i’ve been starting to think that I have been doing this to create a safe space for myself to FEEL what has occurred. I have described what happened in the ER with my husband and mother many times but I feel like I’m reading a form letter. I know I would have more of a reaction if I were even reading an account of someone I don’t know. so I was happy to read this, this morning, and assume that what is going on is hyper-arousal and I’m trying to create a safe space to be in my body. I am seeing a therapist, and I am ‘titrating’ the feelings somewhat there, but there is no way of approaching what I think I will need to when the 45 min is ticking away and the walls are thin. (I also appreciated readin in the comments about forest therapy. didn’t know there was such a thing but it makes sense to me. )

    • Junta Monika Triebe says:

      Felicia Calm. you are extraordinary gifted, to heal yourself!
      What at last we have to do all, because the therapy can only support us.

  149. Sandra Jones says:

    Thanks. As a Rolfer and homeopath I love Dr Levine’s work.
    Thanks for having this very accessible piece.
    I appreciate the work you do ~ the world needs trauma work now more than ever!

  150. Lisa says:

    I am a sufferer. All day, every day. These insights are great for a reminder as to how trauma works but it is not enough to help me out of the hyper-vigilant stage.

    I believe that there is another component that is often overlooked–that hormones become imbalanced once one is experiencing a flashback. So the disorder is two-fold–brain injury and the subsequent hormonal imbalance (cortisol, thyroid, progesterone, testosterone, etc) that throws the whole system out of whack like a Catch-22. It is difficult to re-balance the brain and the body when they both have put you into shock–trying to let you die painlessly like the pigeon playing possum.

    And you cannot apply rational thinking to resolve it. Note I said “apply”. My rational brain is there, witnessing, coaxing calmness and openness but unable to reach my trauma brain. The most important point that this article states, for me, is that the patient needs to feel safe. For me this is difficult. Especially when eye contact is threatening. Sound is threatening. Thinking is threatening. Feeling is threatening. Existence is threatening.

    It helps to imagine floating on a wave in the ocean–float over the pain like a wave. Also, when I’m in a well place and am knowingly confronting a trauma, I tell myself to use this opportunity to create a new memory of that place, sound, song, experience, person, etc. that is pleasant.

  151. I’m an amateur musician and had struggled with stage fright throughout my adult life. My worst experiences were playing the piano—I would get nervous before and during any performance, especially after the first mistake. I’d lose strength in my hands and forearms, my sense of rhythm would disintegrate, fine motor skills would really decline and I couldn’t think straight. I had a good idea WHY this was, and worked on it some in therapy, but I’m not a professional musician so it was “low priority.” I did a lot of work on myself that resulted in a confident person able to contribute well in life, BUT I still had the stage fright issue. Thanks to your work (along with others addressing trauma and sharing through NICABM), I came to understand that whenever I performed (rarely, for family and friends) I essentially re-traumatized myself. I would anticipate what I’d experienced in the past—a confident, hopeful start (because I was well-prepared) with only minor bodily symptoms of nervousness that would disintegrate into full blown stage fright shut-down after I made some mistake. That’s what happened again and again over many years, giving me the bodily and psychological experience of failure. I was never able to play up to my ability in front of others. I realized, again thanks to you, that what I needed to do was perform LONG ENOUGH in a safe environment so that all the fight-flight-freeze reactions would have an opportunity to normalize and I could have the experience that it was “no big deal.” So I prepared a bunch of material and got two trusted friends to listen to me without judgment. I played for 30 minutes at most and had the experience of losing, then regaining control. It gave me a new ease in musical performance, and now I’m working on a duet with one of those friends. I believe I provided a corrective experience, contained the arousal and moved through it back to relaxed alertness. Now I can think about playing for others without immediately becoming nervous. Thank you truly for your wonderful work!

  152. Cinzia says:

    I’m not a therapist, but I’m interested on evething that can me feel and be better. I found very intesting what you said about looking for the reason why animals in the wild don’t develop the same symptoms, since the parts of the brain that respond to stress are quite similar in all mammals, including humans. And if animals became so easily traumatized, they probably would never survive because they would lose their edge. They wouldn’t survive, nor would the species survive. But the rest seems a bit mechanical to me, and it’s not clear how you develop your therapy, if you have already experienced it, how long it takes, and how successful it is. However, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Go to YouTube and look for videos about trauma healing, Peter Levine and somatic experiencing and see if something makes sense to you. It it so totally NOT mechanical but I guess for this kind of NICABM post, it can seem like that.

  153. I use many elements of this work in my therapy with traumatized clients already — particularly attending to bodily sensations and weaving in and out of the trauma story to maintain relative calm in the nervous system. However, I find it is not always welcome or possible to work through just a tiny bit of the trauma, then back out and back in again, nice and controlled as this sounds.

    In my experience, sometimes, as in Diana Fosha’s AEDP model, the experience must be ‘fully felt’ to its completion, and some clients get very angry at being stopped in their process repeatedly for many reasons: they feel they are ‘doing it wrong,’ their process gets stalled, and especially trying is that as this way of working takes a long time, it can leave the client at the end of the session with only a partially-processed experience that can then intrude on them later.

    Alan Schore’s work with right hemisphere activation suggests that the window of tolerance for change in this realm is at the edge of both the high and low end of activation, so much more intense than one might think. The aspects I really like about somatic experiencing are the idea that it is critical to bring the person back into ‘relaxed altertness’, and my favorite, the step that allows the body to complete the actions thwarted at the time of trauma. Levine explains so well why this is important. In therapy, it happens in an imaginal way that can involve enacting the fight or flight response (ie pushing something away, or running on the spot). Since the right hemisphere does not differentiate between real and imaginary, it will feel the completion as a major somatic shift in the way the body holds that particular memory. Sometimes this even generalizes to other, similar trauma memories — but I find it works best with single-incident trauma and that long-term developmental trauma work is a lot more complicated and included relational aspects that are not fleshed out in SE.

    • Sally Ramsey says:

      Really well said Leslie Ellis I couldn’t agree more. I have also found that the experience must be fully felt in certain individuals, and that stopping the process can cause an unnecessary detour into frustration and doubt that is not useful. I must always remember this is an art, as well as a science. I would like to continue corresponding with you on findings and challenges when using SE with patients with all kinds of trauma.

  154. First of all, I am really enjoying all of these posts. Thank you very much! I have always found waking the tiger as my go to book for trauma.
    It would be really helpful if I could see a video of Dr. Levine actually applying this process.

  155. This seems very helpful. I have three new clients and all have histories of trauma as children. In the first sessions as they were giving information about their histories they became emotionally overwhelmed and in considerable pain. I tried to move them from emotional information into a more cognitive mode, but I didn’t address the sensory issues. But I will next time. I appreciate your explanation of the sequencing of this kind of trauma.

    Thank you

  156. Felicia, LMHC, MA, USA says:

    This is like exposure therapy only for body sensations. My only question is how does one frighten, relax, re-frighten, relax, etc. Since the body sensations are their internal experience and we don’t want to traumatize them I wonder what that looks like.

  157. BETTY JO CONRAD, L.C.S.W. says:

    Decent overview, but not enough details of the process or examples to be useful and applicable. It wasn’t sufficient to make me want more.

  158. Ann Bliss, LCMHC Portsmouth, NH says:

    Dr. Levine’s work is brilliant in his observations and ability to clearly identify the healing steps. I like the homeopathic analogy…an energetically formulated small action creating a powerful, but measured response. I’ve seen some of his video work and read his first book, time for me to read the rest.

  159. Mary says:

    Outlining steps/stages of resilience from being stuck in conditioned responses of either hyper- vigilance or emotional blocking is an interesting read. I am considering an offer to work with children, ages 10-16 who have experienced extreme trauma. I would like to study more concretely and practically. Is there coursework?

  160. Christy says:

    I am not a therapist, but certifying as a forest therapy guide presently. I love this article and your book, as I personally am recovering from PTSD. I love the analogy of the homeopathics. This seems so right and so healthy. Teaching a patient to accept and even embrace sensations, even thought they have caused so much fear in the past is beautiful. I am still working on this. The way you write in your book about rejection of body is so valid. I can’t express how much I really appreciate you and your work, both of you. Thank you!

    • Denise Di Novi says:

      can u explain what a first therapy guide is and how you get this certification ? thanks

  161. Pat Eagleman-wichita,Ks. says:

    Very good article.

  162. Darlene Groves says:

    I find Dr Levine’s comment on how he has noticed there are many different kinds of seemingly ordinary events that cause people to develop symptoms. Often when individuals are traumatized they also deal with society’s judgment of whether their ‘trauma’ is valid. Being able to utilize a nine step framework to work through whatever has caused them to became trapped in the trauma cycle is helpful. It gives enough structure to create safety and allows the flexibility to tailor it to the individual need. Is there any example Dr. Levine could offer that might give us a clearer idea of the finer points of this process?

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      Go to YouTube. Maybe check out Ray’s story. Search under Peter Levine or Somatic Experiencing.

    • Yes, the judgment. Trauma is trauma

  163. randy cisne says:

    Thank you for the “what”…….now, I’m ready for the “how.”

  164. John Eades says:

    There is, and has been, since the 1960s, an organization called Reevaluation Counseling that has used similar methods without the jargon to combat PTSD (or hurts as they are called in the organization). It is an effective method of counseling that has been around for a long time and many people have found Reevaluation Counseling helpful and in expensive.

  165. Belen Bazan says:

    It is very interesting that in the 21st century Darwin’s theories are still valid. His observations about the response in a robin bird when caught and became paralized. Similar survival strategies observed nowadays in panic attacks. Thanks

  166. I really loved reading this, so much food for thought. I am very skeptical of theories on complex theories about how the brain works, while in fact we know so little! This seems like it is based on observations of what actually happens in nature and keeps to the basics of how we survive. This conceptualization fits with EMDR whereby the client thinks about the trauma, the thought and the body sensations and just “Notices” what comes up. I would love to learn more and how to apply these insights!

  167. Marilyn says:

    Does this relate to the “sulking” that we refer to when a child shuts down, however old they are?

    • Yes, totally. Shutting down, for protection and survival. Basic and healthy sign in the child !

  168. Theresa FERNSTROM says:

    I enjoy reading some of your articles but would like to advise you that I am not a psychologist of any kind. I don’t know how I came to be on your mailing list as a professional in any health field. If I was I certainly would be happy to be listed amongst your contacts.

  169. I love his work and find it so useful. His quote here is so right on: “the basic idea is to guide people to help them recapture this natural resilience. We can do this through helping them become aware of body sensations. And as they become aware and are able to befriend their body sensations, they are able to move out of these stuck places.”

    The way that I help my PTSD patients do this is in 12 second intervals throughout their day. 12 seconds is the length of one deep breath, which is evidenced-based as an optimal breath in the book, The Healing Breath by two Harvard MDs (search on amazon for this). But I have also layered this optimal breath with 7 other master switches that help a patient recapture their natural resilience. I call it “regaining your core vitality and well-being in 12 seconds.” You can learn more here if you are interested:

  170. Kristina Stevens, Psychicatric Nurse Practitioner Chicago, IL says:

    very informative. so many pt with trauma. will be helpful to integrate.

  171. Tim Munro says:

    Interesting how similar this process is to a lot of craniosacral experiences when a person processes trauma and accesses responses of health again.

  172. deb alleyne says:

    I would love to know how to apply this to parenting my 10 year old son… How do I help him reset his nervous system?

    • Robbin Phelps says:

      I don’t know all about SE work, but have read some and practiced some. I also have a son who went through a very trying time at about that age. My suggestion is to first practice it for yourself. Then, you will have a sense of it, and can convey it to your son in a way that is authentic. Might be best to get him to a trained somatic experience professional.

  173. Kym-Kisha Nixon says:

    I would love to try this process on myself first, then with clients. Thank you for this information.

  174. Genevieve Chandler says:

    This makes so much sense. The seventh step, is so essential and could use abit more explanation. Can you give an example of ” help them
    discharge and regulate the high arousal state and redistribute the mass is higher energy to support higher brain functioning.” I am curious because
    I appreciate that a skilled therapist can ablely conduct this process in the safe space of an office but in the end you mention in the emergency room and recovery room so I am curious about how we can train nurses to reset the nervous every system. The use of this process would greatly assist the patient and the staff.

    • Phyllis Stein says:

      There is a youtube video where Peter Levine describes his own relatively recent experience of being hit by a car and how a caring bystander, a pediatrician, was able to help him get back to safety.

  175. Agnes Wohl says:

    Would love to learn more

  176. zoe says:

    Thank you!

  177. Tobias S. Schreiber, MA, LPC, NBCCH, Boiling Springs, South Carolina says:

    Dr Levine uses a natural wisdom with observation of a very integrated , respectful way of reconnecting us to ourselves. Thank for sharing this useful way of healing our traumas.

  178. This is a clear statement of the underlying principles of dealing with trauma with acceptance, respect and love. Why would we want to do it any other way? Thank you.

  179. I just love his work.. I have found it so personally empowering and so helpful for my clients.
    I also work with horses, with people and horses on the ground and his wisdom from the animal world,
    especially with prey animals has taught me so much. Thank you for sharing this very important wisdom
    again it is so clear and makes such sence.

  180. Alison suggett says:

    As a person centred therapist I can attest that This is extremely powerful as a therapy. I have had some of
    This therapy, in this country it is called
    Psomatic experiencing, it is hard to come by
    But it is starting up here in Scotland.

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