Somatic-Linguistic Practices: An Education for Professionals

This is an education in Somatic-Linguistic Practices (SLP) for therapists, coaches, counsellors, psychologists, body workers, and people in similar professions. The education gives students theoretical and practical knowledge about Somatic-Linguistic Practices, they can use to supplement and enhance their current professional skills or as basis for starting a therapeutic praxis.

Somatic-Linguistic Practices
Somatic-Linguistic Practices combines elements from somatic psychology, jnana yoga, Buddhist psychology, and cognitive science – in particular, the branch of cognitive science known as embodied cognition and cognitive metaphor theory. The resulting practices are called Somatic-Linguistic because a key component is the development of somatic awareness and awareness of the link between somatic states and language.

To give an impression of what SLP is, it is useful to compare and contrast SLP with various well-known therapeutic approaches – in particular cognitive-behavioural approaches, somatic approaches, and approaches based in humanistic and in Buddhist psychology.

Insofar as SLP draws on modern cognitive science to develops therapeutic practices, it resembles cognitive approaches to therapy, such as, Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP). Cognitive approaches to therapy generally focus on challenging and changing cognitive distortions that prevents the client from solving problems and achieving desired goals. These approaches can involve varying degrees of working directly with behavioural patterns and with developing capacity for tolerating and regulating emotions. SLP differs from such approaches by emphasising and working specifically with the embodied roots of cognition – including the embodied states the client uses to formulate his/her problems and desired goals and to relate to his/her behaviours and emotions.

SLP works with the embodied roots of cognition through the client’s “felt sense”. This gives SLP a close affinity with Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing approach to therapy. In the 50s and 60s, Gendlin did seminal research under the supervision of Carl Rogers, one of the founders of humanistic psychology. This research showed that success in therapy depended on the clients’ ability to access the non-verbal, somatic felt sense of the issue they worked with in their therapy. Gendlin’s research has since inspired a wave of somatically focused approaches to therapy, for example, Peter Levin’s Somatic Experiencing. In SLP, felt sense is used, not only to address specific problems and traumas as in Focussing and Somatic Experiencing, but more importantly to bring about a fundamental shift in the totality of the clients’ cognition and way of experiencing self and life by working with the somatic ground of the client’s cognitive processes.

In particular, SLP is concerned with bringing about a fundamental shift in how we perceive phenomena in the world, which will dissolve much of the specific problems human beings face in their lives. In this way, SLP has an affinity with Buddhist psychology. Like in Buddhism, it is assumed that the majority of our suffering in life is produced by a fundamentally flawed way of perceiving reality. Our suffering or discontent arises because we do not see our own participation in the creation of the phenomena we deal with in everyday life and because we use the somatic states of grasping or pushing away physical objects to understand our interactions with both our selves and the world.

In SLP, the client is invited to explore the embodied essence of key positive phenomena which the client desires and which drives most of his/her behaviour, for example, happiness, sense of purpose, peace, aliveness, strength, commitment, compassion, freedom, and love. This exploration leads to the gradual realisation that these phenomena are aspects of our ever-present true nature – and not something we need to struggle to acquire. This realisation emerges out of the therapeutic process, not as a mere theoretical understanding, but as a lived experience. When this happens, it will calm down the client’s compulsions and anxieties, dissolving the client’s sense of deficiency, and connecting the client with his/her inherent sense of resourcefulness, satisfaction, and sense of purpose in life. When clients feel that the present moment always is pregnant with everything they seek, it becomes possible for them to select and achieve goals in a purely spontaneous and effortless manner. They will be motivated in their actions by an inner sense of abundance that overflows, rather than by an inner sense of lack needing to be filled.

In SLP, the client is also invited to explore the embodied essence of the thoughts, emotions, and instinctive urges that he/she perceives as undesirable and wishes to get rid of, limit, control, or change. This exploration leads to the gradual realisation that there is nothing in us we need to reject, since everything in us, no matter how it may appear at first glance, is nothing other than an energetic movement towards the above-mentioned states of happiness, sense of purpose, peace, aliveness, strength, commitment, compassion, freedom, and love. The practice of skilfully connecting with and riding the energetic wave of any internal movement – whether we perceive it as good or bad – is a powerful way of becoming aware of true nature and developing the compassionate and loving way of perceiving life that Ann Weiser Cornell, a prominent student of Eugene Gendlin, beautifully describes as: the radical acceptance of everything.

In short, SLP is a system of explorations using inner felt sense to correct the cognitive flaws that leads human-beings to pursue courses of action hoping to attain happiness and similar states while unknowingly creating and sustaining their own suffering in the process. Engaging with SLP has a twofold effect. First, you realise that all you feel you lack is present to you in every moment. Second, the somatic ground of your concepts will be redefined in ways that allow you to live life from a place of inner abundance and compassionate understanding.

Teaching methods
The pedagogical approach will be highly interactive, combining discussion with hands-on, experiential learning. We will discuss course theories in the light of students’ personal attempts to apply them in praxis. For each module there will be homework both in terms of reading and in terms of practical assignments. As knowledge will be developed through discussion of participants’ personal experience, it is important that students meet in class having completed both reading assignments and practical assignments.

Learning Objectives
During the course the students will learn to:

  • Develop awareness of inner felt sense and apply this awareness in inquiry processes
  • Observe ideas, emotions, and urges without repressing them or following them into action
  • Listen compassionately for the ultimate motivations behind (self-)destructive behaviour
  • Categorise psychological phenomena according to the somatic states in which they are grounded and apply knowledge of these categories in therapeutic processes
  • Reflect on the somatic ground of language
  • Work with core deficiencies/trauma
  • Create efficient frames that support and enhance inquiry processes
  • Evoke healing somatic states through guided meditations
  • Use SLP to liberate and support clients’ inherent self-healing impulses
  • Synthesise the above to bring about a transformation of consciousness

Exam
The exam consists of a theoretical and a practical exam. The practical exam consists of giving two sessions to the same client in the presence of a teacher. After the first session, the student will receive feedback that can be put into practice during the second session. The theoretical exam consists of a thesis the student will write during the last year. For the thesis, the student will carry out a piece of research and use it to develop a personal offering, where the student merges the techniques taught at the program with the student’s previous therapeutic practice. In this way, the student will leave the program with a personal offering firmly grounded in both theoretical literature and empirical research. 

The structure of the education
The education consists of 27 modules divided into three sections: Basic techniques (3 modules), working with key domains of life (18 modules), and advanced techniques (6 modules). The modules within each section can be completed in any order. However, all modules in one section must be completed before starting the modules in the following section (see list of modules below). Several electives are also offered to the students. These are optional and not necessary to complete the education.

Section I: Basic Theory & Techniques (3 modules)

  • Working with the Inner Critic
  • Personality Structures
  • Basic Inquiry Skills and Working with Inner Felt Sense

Section II: Working with Key Domains of Life (18 modules)

  • On Freedom, Openness & Receptivity
  • On Support, Grounding & Confidence
  • On Strength, Courage & Aliveness
  • On Peace, Power & Stillness
  • On Compassion & Loving-Kindness
  • On Joy and Happiness
  • On Appreciation
  • On Nourishment, Satisfaction & Fulfilment
  • On Sweet uniting and bonding
  • On Passion
  • On Intimacy
  • On Basic Trust
  • On Clear Perception
  • On Guidance
  • On Contact
  • On Self
  • On Emptiness
  • On Fullness

Section III: Advanced Techniques (6 modules)

  • Acting from Presence
  • Working with Core Deficiencies
  • Techniques for Framing Inquiries in Therapeutic Processes
  • Techniques for Guiding Meditations & Hypnotic Language Patterns
  • Techniques for Guiding Client Inquiries & Analysing Clients’ Language Patterns (4 days)
  • The Three Core Principles of Somatic-Linguistic Practices

Electives (3 modules)

  • Entrepreneurship for Therapists
  • Reflection Techniques
  • Collective Inquiry Techniques