Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Renee Hepperlen


Social Work


Most individuals are exposed to a traumatic event in their lifetime, but not all go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is characterized by symptoms of intrusion and avoidance of stimuli related to the traumatic event, as well as dissociation. PTSD has been linked to a number of somatic syndromes including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), chronic lower back pain, hypertension, and hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction resulting in hormonal imbalance. Several evidence-based interventions for PTSD exist, including prolonged exposure therapy (PE), eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), and cognitive processing therapy (CPT), however many of these approaches address trauma using components of exposure or are not well-researched in addressing somatic symptoms related to trauma. Somatic Experiencing (SE) is an emerging intervention conceptually framed by the “bottom-up” processing theory. SE has been demonstrated to improve PTSD symptoms in early intervention studies across a variety of contexts and diverse populations, however research on SE is limited and the literature on SE is concentrated primarily in the theoretical realm. No prior studies have explored practitioner’s perspectives on how SE benefits trauma survivors and which clients are best suited for SE. This study explores this question through qualitative interviews with three practitioners in a Midwestern metro area. A common theme of practitioner-client fit emerged in the data, as well as four main subthemes: (1) conceptualization of trauma, (2) psychoeducation of the Somatic Experiencing approach, (3) clients who do not benefit from Somatic Experiencing, and (4) self-awareness. Implications are discussed as well as gaps and suggestions for future research.

Included in

Social Work Commons