The Centre for Healing Blog


Talk Therapy or Somatic Therapy?

embodied processing nervous system root-cause therapy somatic therapy talk trauma Jun 01, 2024
talk, somatic therapy, acceptance, trust

Firstly, there are many different therapeutic and healing approaches and modalities. Each person is their own best expert and will need to self-assess how a certain therapy works for them at any given time.

Different therapies may be effective at different times.

This is unique for each person. It is important to know there are options. If one approach isn’t working, then there are others to consider. 

Many clients find their way to somatic (body-centred) therapy after they don't find a long-term improvement from talk or pharmaceutical-based therapies. Or perhaps those therapies were helpful for some time, or in some areas, but only to a point.
The clients are still feeling triggered and debilitated by mental and emotional health issues, and things are no longer improving. Perhaps they are feeling worse after talk therapy than before it.

A reason for this is that in some situations, talk therapy can be re-traumatizing for a client, compounding and perpetuating their issues and suffering.

The purpose of this article is not to declare one form of therapy superior to another. It is to help people understand how Embodied Processing (a somatic, body-centred therapy) is different from talk-based therapy, and how at certain times in the healing journey one or the other could be more supportive. 

A good therapist (regardless of modality or approach) will help a client to feel safe with them.
Their empathy, kindness, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and attunement will help cultivate the client's ability to trust them. This builds a safe therapeutic container necessary for deep healing to occur. 

The state of the therapist's nervous system is more important than what kind of therapy they use. A somatic therapist can still be very much dysregulated, miss-attuned, not present, judgemental, and unempathetic, which will then impact negatively on the client.  

An issue with traditional talk therapy is that it doesn't transform the issue, but rather can assist in coping with it, reframing it, or keeping the underlying pain out of consciousness. This can be helpful at certain stages, with certain issues, but so long as the body is ignored the underlying energetic pattern of the person isn’t changed, healed, or transformed.


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The potential pitfalls of not including a body-centred approach are further states of dissonant fragmenting, dissociation, and cognitive bypassing. It can split the mind further away from the body, causing clients to overcompensate into mental formulations which makes them disconnect further from their experience. This further embeds the neural pathways due to repeatedly telling the story over and over (i.e., looping), without integrating or completing the bodily response associated with the events being discussed.

If talk therapy can include somatic awareness, noticing and tracking sensations, connecting to direct experience as well as safety, support, guided techniques, and empathetic attunement on the practitioner's behalf, then it can be transformative. Metabolizing, and digesting the stored patterns and old survival stress (traumas) which are stored in the body, rather than the mind.

It's important to note that some talk therapists can hold a beautiful space, where clients can meet themselves, but that itself is not so much about the cognitive strategies being overly effective but is more about the co-regulation, attunement, acceptance, and safety that is being transmitted in the space itself. The talking is secondary and can be helpful in the sense that it can help with insight and connection, but here it is the nervous system being worked with on a deeper level. Without this foundation, any kind of therapy can feel like it's going in circles, even somatic therapy. The relational field between the therapist and client is primary.

When we include the body, we have the potential to shift and heal the issue, experiencing growth and integration on the level of our whole being.

The body is the only place the energy of past experiences can be truly alchemized and shifted from the past into the present.

An embodied shift is very different from a shift in cognitive perspective. When we only change our thinking about something, we still unconsciously carry it in our body. But when the body itself has the shift, then the potential for authentic transformations and release is possible.

A therapist's presence, capacity for empathy, compassion, attunement, acceptance, co-regulation, and connection are above all else the important foundation for building therapeutic safety and effectiveness. Their presence is more important than their competence. For a client not feeling seen, heard, understood, or being stuck in therapy where they are constantly raising traumatic and stressful events, without safely processing them in conjunction with the body, can be re-traumatizing. This re-traumatization releases stress response chemicals into the body and can have serious impacts on the client's health and ability to heal, compounding and perpetuating the issues. Also to lose trust in therapy and perhaps stay stuck in suffering, believing therapy doesn’t work.

True trauma-informed talk therapy (where the client feels safe, able to trust, seen, heard, validated, accepted, and attuned with, where there is a warm professional rapport and a sense of safety in connection) is healing through co-regulation, where the practitioner can use their regulated nervous system to help regulate the clients dysregulated nervous system and emotions. Under the surface, they are helping to re-train the client's nervous system and help them feel safe and secure. This helps the client shift out of an emotionally acute and intense state. Bringing their nervous system back to homeostasis, the state in which true healing can happen.

Talk therapy can be an important element of good therapy, at least initially in building the therapeutic relationship. It can support an opportunity for a client to tell their story, to find words they have never had a chance to speak, to break the secrecy, to build narrative coherence, to understand our different parts of self (patterns) and their jobs, to reduce shame and self-blame, to feel validated, heard and less alone, for finding one's voice, for understanding the effects of trauma and building the witness and meta-cognitive skills. When we can name it, we can begin to tame it! All of this can build more coherence and a more solid sense of self.  Talk therapy can support us along the journey of change, but not all the way.  There is value in talking at all different stages of our healing, integration, and individuation. Mind and talk therapy can be a place for people to start gaining awareness and support, and then down the track once they are feeling more stable and ready, somatic (body-centred) therapy can provide a way to go deeper and resolve issues at their root cause. 

If we don't at some stage address the body and the implicit imprints of the trauma or past stress stored here, the bound trauma physiology has no way to be processed and complete itself. Which will then continue to give rise to the symptoms we want to address. Even if we develop insight and cognitive understanding, the body will keep the score, and our nervous system can remain dysregulated if it is not addressed and processed at an embodied level. Essentially with talk therapy, we are working more at the surface level, rather than the root cause level where the issues are stored in the body. 

Much Love, 
The Centre for Healing
Justine Hoermann - Embodied Processing Practitioner

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