3 keys to doing better somatic work with clients

Somatic Work is a hot topic these days and with good reason. 

It’s been shown over and over again that cognitive work on its own is not nearly as effective as supporting clients to overcome obstacles and reach their goals as when you pair it with somatic work.

That’s because cognitive understanding alone usually isn’t enough to break a habit, befriend a fear, leverage a shadow, or embody a new idea (the key piece there being emBODY!).

The body holds so much wisdom, so much intuition, so much energy, so much trauma. Leaving it out of the mix is like only working with a fraction of your client as a whole.

I’ve been working somatically with clients for over 20 years, and my toolbox of dozens of somatic techniques is a big part of what helps me help my clients to transform as deeply as they do.

If a client’s got a fear, we work somatically.

If a client’s got resistance, we work somatically.

If a client has trouble getting excited about a goal, we work somatically.

If a client is being booby-trapped by an unrealized Shadow, we work somatically.

If a client has trouble clarifying a vision, we work somatically.

(And even when a client is blocked by limiting beliefs, we still bring in the body).

I’ve learned over the decades that while the execution of really good somatic work looks simple and elegant on the outside, there is a lot of technique and nuance that is required of the practitioner.

Here are three of many, many nuances that can level up your somatic work right away:

  1. Go slow

The mind works quickly (some of that is due to the out-of-control emphasis we’ve put on cognitive knowledge in our culture, combined with the pressure to be speedy in the industrial age). But, the body is on its own timing, always. (And thank goodness for that!). 

When you work with the body, one of the most important things to remember is to go slow. You’re not looking for tons of new ideas or for complex articulations to come out of somatic work. What you’re looking for is so, so much deeper. And then requires you to hold a container for your client where they can really take the time to be with their body and to work with it. 

Additionally, one of the many benefits of somatic work is that it supports your clients to get regulated with things that are uncomfortable or normally dysregulating for them. The only way to do this is to slow down.

  1. Don’t ask complicated questions (in other words, don’t tempt the mind to take over)

When you are leading a client through a somatic process, you want to stay away from any complicated or smarty pants questions. Those types of questions are sure to take your client out of connection with their body and straight back into the cognitive space. Because only their sophisticated, smarty pants mind can answer smarty pants questions!

Instead, stick with simple questions that can go deep and keep clients in their bodies. (One hint: Any question that starts with the word “why” is a surefire way to activate the mind).

  1. Stay as safe as possible

Working somatically means that your client is putting a lot of trust in you to hold space for them to connect with the knowing and wisdom in their bodies. And our bodies are also the places where we hold trauma. As practitioners, whether we work somatically or spiritually or with the heart, or even just cognitively, we can’t avoid trauma. It is simply a part of our lives, and every practitioner is going to encounter it. This is why it’s so important for your trauma-informed skills to be in tip-top shape. In general, for sure, but particularly when you’re doing somatic work. 

Know how to create and maintain tight containers. Know how to connect with a client about their childhood experiences & inner child (& how not to connect about this). Know how to support a client to create awareness about the difference between past experiences and current resources. Know what to do if a client does become activated (it’s not a bad thing at all if you know what to do). Know what is in your scope of practice and what is not.

Somatic work is some of the most deep, sacred, transformational and FUN work you can do. I am thrilled that more and more folks are becoming aware of it and deepening their somatic skills.

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