VIDEO: Dr. Peter Levine on Somatic Experiencing in a Group Setting

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

Dr. Peter Levine gives an example of the Somatic Experiencing Approach in a group setting.

Dr. Peter A. Levine: My next trip was in Athens because my book was being released in Greek and I was going to do a thing for the publisher there.  But the earthquake had just hit – a big earthquake in Athens and Turkey and so we got there and we immediately started getting groups — these were groups of teachers because the kids were having tremendous problems.

So when I started doing the normal grounding exercises that I do, it didn’t work.  And fortunately, I realized pretty quickly the reason it didn’t work was because they could not trust the ground.  The ground, the Mother Earth had just betrayed them. And so I was doing a really stupid thing. So I went up to this one teacher and everybody had had their shoes off and so I said, “Let me take your ankle.”  And I put her foot on my belly and I said, “I just want you to feel your feet on my belly.” And after a little while, there was some shaking and trembling, some deep spontaneous breaths, a tear coming down her eyes. She looked around the room and she said, “Lets’ do this with each other.” And they all did it with each other.

Joyce Catlett: You grounded them on something that was trustworthy.

Dr. Peter A. Levine:      Trustworthy, exactly. And then they were able to go back and do those kinds of exercises with their children, with their children in the classes, and help the parents.  I think, in a way, the most important application of this is in what people can do to help each other, to help themselves and help each other, in community.

Like that shaman in Brazil said, “The problem in trauma is not the trauma per se, but you don’t have the holding that’s necessary to help the people move through,” which I got from that pediatrician, through her warmth, through holding her hand, through squeezing her hand, through knowing that another human being was with me.  And it was in a very direct way. It was with this touch, this touch.  So, yeah, as I tell you the story I feel moved and grateful — for her and the wisdom of our bodies.

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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