The Power of Somatic Therapy in Depression Treatment

Somatic Therapy In Depression Treatment
Somatic Therapy in Depression Treatment

We are all familiar with the term ‘depression,’ which has become increasingly common nowadays. Depression has been on the rise year after year, and according to the World Health Organization in the U.S., an estimated 1 in 15 adults, constituting about 6.7%, experience depression in any given year. Globally, approximately 5% of the population—equivalent to 405 million people—suffers from depression.

Identifying the symptoms, such as sadness, tearfulness, emptiness, irritability, hopelessness, or lack of energy, is essential in determining the necessary treatment.

Fortunately, there are various treatment options, including different types of therapies such as behavior therapy, cognitive therapy, CBT, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, and more. However, the two most conventional approaches for treating depression are Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medications. Somatic therapy is an approach that complements CBT in treating depression. In this article, we will explore how somatic practices can aid in dealing with depression.

Historical Roots of Somatic Practices

Somatic practices find roots in ancient Eastern traditions, and yoga, or Tai Chi, emphasizes the connection between mind and body, promoting holistic well-being through mindful movement and breath awareness. However, the term was first introduced in the 1970’s by Thomas Hanna. He used the term primarily to refer to body movement to improve mental health.

More recently, Peter A. Levine has placed a significant emphasis on addressing trauma and stress within the framework of somatic practices. His work aims to restore balance in the autonomic nervous system, recognizing the profound impact of these practices on mental and physical well-being.

Understanding Somatic Practices

The mind and body work in tandem, and somatic therapy assists in addressing unresolved emotional issues stored in the body over the years. It employs techniques to address physical issues, particularly trauma. While therapies like CBT focus on the brain, somatic therapy places significant emphasis on how the body feels to facilitate trauma healing.

Somatic therapy combines both physical and talking therapies to unlock past traumatic experiences. The main goal of somatic experiencing (SE) is to change how the body reacts to stress and trauma built up over the years.

Practitioners of somatic movement utilize various tools, including empathic verbal exchange and complex movement experiences, to guide individuals in discovering the natural movement or flow of life activity within the body. This aids in releasing the body from tension.

The Most Popular Somatic Methods

Any practice that uses an interconnection between the mind and body is a somatic movement. Some of the somatic approaches that are most common, have been practiced for quite some time, and are most appreciated are the following:


Yoga is the most popular somatic method practiced due to its focus on the mind-body connection. Yoga involves awareness of the body and physical sensations by focusing on the present moment. This heightened body awareness can help individuals connect with themselves and understand their bodily experiences, fostering a greater sense of self.

Yoga fosters a sense of resilience by encouraging individuals to meet physical and mental challenges on the mat. This resilience can extend to everyday life, supporting individuals in coping with somatic experiences with greater ease.

Many yoga poses involve gentle stretching and releasing tension from different areas of the body. Some good types of Yoga for this are Yin-Yang Yoga and Hatha Yoga.


Another somatic practice that helps engage with emotional and physical through the process of movement is dance. According to this study, dance helps practitioners be in contact with their bodies, increasing the feeling of safety. It serves as a somatic intervention to release trauma stored in the body, too.

Dance is also known as dance therapy and can be also used for stress reduction, or even disease prevention. It is a holistic approach to healing, that makes you aware of your emotions connecting the whole selves — mind, body, and spirit. The most important benefit dance brings into someone’s body is that it produces endorphins, that good feeling after you do some sport, which helps boost your mood, especially if you have depressive episodes.


Meditation, recognized as a powerful somatic practice method brings attention to the present moment, being mindful to bring clarity and a calm mood. Studies like the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology have shown that consistently practicing meditation can be a valuable tool in managing various conditions, including depressive symptoms because it fosters a feeling of non-judgmental awareness effective in treating these symptoms.

In this study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers explored the effects of meditation on sleep quality. The findings suggested that regular meditation, particularly mindfulness meditation, could significantly contribute to improved sleep. Incorporating meditation into one’s routine has shown promising results in promoting restful and rejuvenating sleep.

Benefits of Somatic Practices

Studies have identified numerous benefits in addressing the interconnected nature of the mind and body. These advantages play a crucial role in effectively dealing with depression. Enumerating some of these benefits provides a clearer understanding:

  • Cultivate mindfulness: Mindfulness, integral to many somatic practices, involves being non-judgmental with yourself and, overall, fosters a more positive and present-focused mindset.
  • Stress reduction: Techniques such as deep breathing and mindful movement create a physiological response that fosters a calmer mental state that aids in the management of depression, reducing stress.
  • Improved body awareness: The purpose of somatic methods is to cultivate awareness within the body. With consistent practice, practitioners can recognize the signs usually associated with emotional distress.
  • Improved body posture: Talking about somatic practices simply means moving your body. Things like dancing, especially yoga, do more than just improve how you move – they also enhance your posture. Standing up a bit straighter is not only good for your body, but it can also boost how you feel about yourself.
  • Emotional regulation: When dealing with depression, you deal with a spectrum of emotions. Getting a deeper connection with your body secures a space for exploration that helps regulate emotions.
  • Trauma recovery: Trauma does not mean necessarily something bad that happened but, more often, something that was absent and as a result embedded trauma in the body. Somatic therapy plays a vital role in dealing with depression rooted in past traumatic experiences.
  • Improved sleep: Many factors contribute to a better mental state, and quality sleep is no exception to this. Somatic practices include relaxation-inducing techniques, especially when practiced in the evening, which can contribute to improving sleep habits.


If you are dealing with depression and have already tried traditional CBT but feel that something is missing or not enough, it might be time to incorporate somatic practices into your daily life. When practiced with perseverance, these methods can, over time, foster a more positive self-perception. The key is to seamlessly integrate mindfulness into everyday activities, making it a natural part of each moment. In essence, embracing somatic practices as a daily routine is the pathway to a harmonious, mindful existence, and it can contribute to healing depression.


Ruxandra is a dedicated digital marketer, but beyond her professional endeavors, she is a creative and dynamic individual with a passion for writing, embarking on a journey of continuous learning and exploration.