VIDEO: Dr. Peter Levine on Somatic Experiencing Approach and Attachment

Watch an excerpt from PsychAlive’s exclusive interview with Dr. Peter Levine.

Dr. Peter Levine describes a case example of the Somatic Experiencing Approach in relation to a toddler who had trouble attaching to his mother.

Dr. Peter A. Levine: One of the videos is work I did with a 12 or 14-month-old. He never really attached, he never molded and bonded with his mother. But his mother was, in Winnicott’s tems, “a good-enough mother.”  She wasn’t, you know, a cold mother, she wasn’t an ambivalent mother. She really wanted to be there, but he just never attached.

Well, we look at his history.  He was born breached, the cord was three times around his neck, he was so far wedged up in the apex of the uterus, under the diaphragm, that even with a Caesarian, they couldn’t get him out, so they had to use suction to pull his head out.  So you think of the trauma he went through and then he had tubes and so forth and so on.

Well, we do some simple work, and you see when I start playing with him – I have some rattles—he’s interested in the rattle and he grabs, but then he pulls away, and then again, he touches it, and I encourage him to push, and he pushes this time and that’s the first step. Instead of being completely dependent and overwhelmed by the whole experience, by all the tubes, by all the procedures people are doing, he starts, for the first time, being able to protect himself.

And in 20 minutes, he attaches with his mom. And, you see, she’s having tears. “Is this my baby? I can’t believe it.  I mean he’s always been affectionate, he’s always nice, but he’s never done this. He’s never molded into me.”  So again, with early intervention, we can do so much.  They’re talking about investing some billions and billions of dollars in mapping the brain. Hey, let’s just take a tenth of that and look at early intervention; that money would be much more wisely spent, in my humble opinion.

About the Author

Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. Peter A. Levine, Ph.D. is the developer of Somatic Experiencing®, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma, and the Director of The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute. Dr. Levine holds doctorate degrees in both Medical Biophysics and in Psychology. He spent 35 years studying stress and trauma and has contributed to numerous scientific and popular publications. Dr. Levine was a stress consultant for NASA on the development of the space shuttle project, as well as a member of the Institute of World Affairs Task Force of Psychologists for Social Responsibility in developing responses to large-scale disasters and ethno-political warfare. He has authored several books, including international best seller, Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma and his most recent book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness. In 2010, Dr. Levine received the Life Time Achievement award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP).

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