VIDEO: Peter Levine’s Secret to Releasing Trauma from the Body

Watch Healing in an Actual Session with a Combat Veteran Suffering from PTSD

As infants, we use touch and body language to constantly receive and communicate messages in the absence of words. And according to trauma expert Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger, nonverbal communication is no less important in adulthood.

But the importance of touch, movement, and body language is often overlooked in our clinical work, Levine says, since therapists tend to focus on words and emotions. Treating trauma without looking at how it manifests in the body, he adds, shuts clinicians off from a wealth of knowledge about how clients are coping, and a direct pathway to healing.

Here, Levine explains how focusing on the body gives people with PTSD a voice for their suffering, and shares a clip from an actual session where he uses body-focused interventions to treat a traumatized combat veteran.

Combining a focus on the body with talk therapy isn’t impossible, Levine says. “The bottom-up process can be engaged and merge with cognitive and emotional approaches. But just talk leaves the goal of restoring emotional wholeness unmet.” As Levine demonstrates, building rapport and communication and treating the body can go hand in hand, and give clients a tangible report of their own progress.

“After we use interventions that embrace the body, clients often remark that something in them has shifted. They seem more grounded. More settled. More alive. That’s the nature of trauma transformed: a greater capacity to feel and to be.”

Peter Levine

Dr. Peter Levine holds doctorates in both medical biophysics and psychology. He is the developer of Somatic Experiencing® (SE), a naturalistic body-awareness approach to healing trauma, which he teaches all over the globe. Dr. Levine is also the founder of the Foundation for Human Enrichment and was a stress consultant for NASA during the development of the space shuttle. An accomplished author, Dr. Levine penned Healing Trauma, Sexual Healing and the bestselling book, Waking the Tiger. He also co-authored with Maggie Kline Trauma Through a Child’s Eyes and Trauma-Proofing Your Kids. His latest book, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, is a testament to his lifelong investigation into the connection between evolutionary biology, neuroscience, animal behavior, and more than 40 years of clinical experience in the healing of trauma.