Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: a scoping literature review

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Marie Kuhfuß, Tobias Maldei, Andreas Hetmanek & Nicola Baumann


Background: The body-oriented therapeutic approach Somatic Experiencing® (SE) treats post-traumatic symptoms by changing the interoceptive and proprioceptive sensations associated with the traumatic experience. Filling a gap in the landscape of trauma treatments, SE has attracted growing interest in research and therapeutic practice, recently.

Objective: To date, there is no literature review of the effectiveness and key factors of SE. This review aims to summarize initial findings on the effectiveness of SE and to outline method-specific key factors of SE.

Method: To gain a first overview of the literature, we conducted a scoping review including studies until 13 August 2020. We identified 83 articles of which 16 fit inclusion criteria and were systematically analysed.

Results: Findings provide preliminary evidence for positive effects of SE on PTSD-related symptoms. Moreover, initial evidence suggests that SE has a positive impact on affective and somatic symptoms and measures of well-being in both traumatized and non-traumatized samples. Practitioners and clients identified resource-orientation and use of touch as method-specific key factors of SE. Yet, an overall studies quality assessment as well as a Cochrane analysis of risk of bias indicate that the overall study quality is mixed.

Conclusions: The results concerning effectiveness and method-specific key factors of SE are promising; yet, require more support from unbiased RCT-research. Future research should focus on filling this gap.

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