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The Science of Somatics

How is somatic therapy and talk therapy different?

There are 2 approaches in therapy; one is called the 'top-down' approach and the other is the 'bottom up' approach. The terms top-down and bottom-up refer to the general areas of the brain and where you start in therapy (from the top or the bottom). Different parts of the brain work together to help us use information to live in the world.

The top-down approach, called psychotherapy, is focused on the parts of the brain associated with thinking, speaking, and current emotional awareness. These are the topmost and most recently evolved areas of the brain; the neocortex, frontal lobes and prefrontal lobes. Psychotherapy -top down therapy-  looks at how the mind interprets information and the therapeutic interventions are all about the changing of your thoughts.

The bottom-up approach, called somatic therapy, is focused on the base parts of  the brain including the brain stem. These lower brain regions are the most primal parts of the brain and responsible for reflexes and automatic survival responses. Somatic therapy -bottom up  therapy- begins with information acquired from the body’s sensations via reflexes and survival reactions.

Why is Somatic Therapy  helpful for trauma and stress related issues?

When it comes to processing trauma, chronic stress and chronic pain, working only with the top down approach is limited because changing thoughts focuses first on the cognitive, frontal lobes and this lives in the higher brain; the place where logic lives. But if you have experienced trauma, the trauma response bypasses the 'thinking areas' of the brain (frontal lobes), and activates the lower areas of brain. Unresolved trauma information is sent to the primal part of your brain because this is the area that holds our instinct to survive. The body’s memories of the danger and instinct to survive (bottom) overtakes the ability to think things through calmly (top). 

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