What Is Somatic Therapy—and Can It Help You Sleep Better?

Somatic therapy, a body-based modality, emphasizes mind-body awareness to address trauma and stress, offering benefits like improved emotional regulation, reduced anxiety, and better body image. Techniques may include mindfulness, breathwork, and movement practices. While evidence supports its efficacy, especially for trauma, it's crucial to choose a qualified therapist.

When most people hear the word “therapy,” they picture sitting on a couch talking to a therapist about their feelings and experiences.

But talk therapy isn’t the only type of therapy; there’s another therapeutic modality that focuses more on the body than the mind—and that’s somatic therapy.

Devotees claim that somatic therapy (also known as somatic healing) is the key to releasing trauma from the body—and improving health (including sleep!) in the process.

But what is somatic healing? Is somatic therapy evidence-based? What kind of benefits can it offer—and if you decide to pursue this type of therapy, where should you start?

What is somatic therapy?

First things first. What, exactly, is this type of therapy?

“Somatic therapy is a body-based modality that incorporates mind-body awareness to help resolve traumas, stressors, or other emotional imprints for more ease, comfort, and healing,” says Claire Fountain, somatic therapist and author. “Somatic therapy taps into the inherent wisdom of our bodies to help us with emotional and psychological health.”

What happens in a therapy session “will depend on the type of somatic therapy you go to,” says Fountain.

“Somatic therapy is a body-based modality that incorporates mind-body awareness to help resolve traumas, stressors, or other emotional imprints for more ease, comfort, and healing.”

Claire Fountain, somatic therapist and author

Generally speaking, “Somatic therapy will guide clients through noticing and recognizing physical sensations in the body while also noticing emotions, thoughts, and meaning,” says Fountain. “Sessions might include mindfulness, breathwork, or being guided through specific movement practices.”

This kind of therapy can be a fit for many types of people. “[Somatic therapy can] help those with chronic stress, anxiety, a disconnection from the body, or anyone wanting a deeper connection with themselves and how they experience the world,” says Fountain.

While somatic therapy can support a large variety of people, it’s known to be especially powerful for people dealing with trauma. “Somatic therapy is very helpful for those with trauma as trauma manifests in our body,” says Fountain. “We often say, ‘The body remembers.’”

This healing modality is also popular with people who’ve explored talk therapy—but aren’t seeing the kind of results they were hoping for.

“Somatic therapy has become popular as people realized talk therapy was not fully helping and wanting something that could really shift old patterns and ways of being, especially related to trauma,” says Fountain. “To know something is different than to feel something. All the talking in the world might not help us feel better, and for some, intellectualizing is a way to avoid feeling.”

What are the benefits of somatic therapy?

So, how can somatic therapy benefit you?

One of the goals of somatic therapy is to help people reconnect and ground themselves in their bodies.

“Many of us might feel disconnected and as if we are floating through life,” says Fountain. “Somatic work can help us come back to our bodies, our present moment, and live more richly experienced lives.”

And that experience of being present in your body can offer a variety of benefits.

“The benefits are increased body-mind awareness, improved emotional regulation, a reduction of symptoms related to anxiety or stress, relief from trauma, improved body image, less pain or a better understanding of pain,” says Fountain.

Somatic therapy can also foster “a deeper connection with ourselves—which can also lead to a deeper connection with others, thus improving relationships and quality of life,” says Fountain.

But is somatic healing evidence-based? There is research to back up the efficacy of somatic therapy. For example, one 2017 study found that somatic experiencing—a form of somatic therapy—could be an effective treatment for PTSD.

Plus, as mentioned, somatic therapy is rooted in mindfulness—which studies have shown can help reduce stress and improve sleep.

Are there any risks to trying somatic therapy?

Clearly, somatic therapy can offer a variety of benefits. But are there any risks?

Potentially. Because somatic therapy is body-based—and often deals with trauma—it could present a risk of “possible re-traumatization or becoming overwhelmed with body sensations without appropriate support or resources,” says Fountain.

Before engaging in somatic therapy, it’s important to talk about the process with a therapist.

How to get started with somatic therapy

Thinking about getting started with somatic healing? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Search for a somatic therapist

If you’re going to do somatic therapy, you want to work with a somatic therapist. Luckily, there are plenty of online directories that can help you find a qualified practitioner.

“Somatic therapists can be found on directories such as Psychology Today or Inclusive Therapists, where you can search for somatic therapists or other modalities,” says Fountain.

You can also search for therapists who provide other services that are either related to or work well with somatic therapy, “such as mindfulness-based therapy, EMDR [eye movement desensitization and reprocessing], IFS [internal family systems], somatic experiencing, or therapists who use holistic approaches,” says Fountain.

Do your due diligence

Somatic therapy has become a more sought-after treatment in recent years. And as it’s risen in popularity, so have the number of people marketing themselves as somatic therapists—including people who may be less than qualified.

That’s why it’s so important to do your due diligence and thoroughly research any practitioners before you start doing somatic work.

“Somatic work has become a buzzword with social media, so I would say really investigate who you choose to work with,” says Fountain. “Ask as many questions as you need to understand their process and what might happen in session.”

Before you agree to work with someone, ask if they have any client testimonials (therapy is confidential, but many therapists will gather anonymous reviews and feedback from clients).

Ask about their experience with somatic therapy. Ask about the practices they incorporate into their sessions—and how many sessions they generally recommend.

(Like any form of therapy, somatic therapy takes time—so if a practitioner promises they can heal you in a single session, consider it a red flag.)

Try body-based exercises at home

Not sure whether somatic therapy is right for you? Dipping your toes into somatics—and doing some body-based exercises at home—could help you determine whether you want to pursue somatic healing.

“For anyone who wants to try somatic work, you can begin with simple exercises even at home that help us notice our body,” says Fountain. “These will not replace somatic therapy but increase wellbeing and reduce stress.”

For example, “Body scan meditations are helpful or really connecting to the body and its sensations during a yoga practice or even while walking,” says Fountain.


What is an example of somatic therapy?

An example of somatic therapy is somatic experiencing, which aims to help people connect with their bodily sensations and release tension, stress, and trauma.

What happens during somatic therapy?

There’s no universal framework for somatic therapy; sessions may incorporate a variety of approaches and modalities, including mindfulness practices, breathwork, and movement exercises.

Is somatic therapy legitimate?

Research suggests that somatic therapy can be an effective modality for treating trauma.

Is EMDR the same as somatic therapy?

EMDR—which stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing”—is a form of somatic therapy.

Looking for ways to practice mindfulness and ease anxiety at home for better sleep? Here are easy ways to meditate in bed.

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