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Somato Emotional Release Explained

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Somato Emotional Release is a therapeutic extension of craniosacral therapy, the gentle massage of the cranium and spine designed to release tension in the central nervous system. However Somato Emotional Release’s purpose is to identify, dislodge and enable the central nervous system to release the negative emotional energy of past traumas still trapped within the body.  

All events the body experiences are perceived through the sensory network of nerves, then recorded in the body’s tissue, and continue on into the brain.  Isolating and trapping trauma is the body’s protective action to minimize its effect so that the afflicted person can resume carrying on with their life pain free.  However eventually the load of trauma accumulated exceeds what we can bear and surfaces in the form of  pain, fatigue, neurological disorders, anxiety, and other ailments.  

Research has shown that trauma affects both the brain and body causing the central nervous system to stay on high alert in “flight or fight mode”, unable to focus on rest and self-healing and poised to combat the next threat.  Hence trauma is not only expressed in musculoskeletal physical pain but also in the emotional centers of the brain – able to be activated thereby exacerbating conditions like chronic pain, headaches, TMJ and other ailments. 

Physical pain is inextricably linked to emotions and more research has demonstrated emotions are integral to the assessment and treatment of persistent pain.  In fact, emotional pain and physical pain exist on very similar circuitry within the central nervous system, and over the course of evolution our bodies decided to use a single neural system to detect, process and feel pain, be it emotional or physical. 

With this understanding, Somato Emotional Release is a therapeutic response that enables the processing and releasing of physical and emotional pain that has been lodged in the body from some point in the past. This treatment does not require re-visiting the traumatic event, but is rather an exploration of current emotions in context to the body today and any restrictions in tissues that are emotional in nature.  Somato Emotional Release treats the body and emotions in the brain, simultaneously with the intent of releasing and opening pathways for the central nervous system to fully process and expel the lingering negative energy of trauma – away from the body. Hence Homeostasis of the body is restored.

Trauma is not physically held in the muscles or bones – instead, in the need to protect oneself from perceived threats, trauma is stored in the  tissue and energetic centers.  Ordinarily trauma that enters the body is processed and dissipated, however this sometimes does not happen, particularly if there is an emotional component to the traumatic experience.  The body sometimes retains and isolates the negative emotional energy and physical force of an injury that’s penetrated into its tissues, rather than the body dissipating it, it is stored in the tissues forming what’s recognized as an “energy cyst” or “lesion”.

Most of us can and do function for years with some level of pent up trauma and energy cysts in our bodies, managing through with our unique ability to compensate.  What occasionally happens is at some point after you experience trauma your logical mind may feel it’s in the past and you’re ‘over it’.  But what’s really happened is in an act of protection your bodies’ primal defense mechanism, memory, captured a detailed blueprint of the traumatic experience as a learning moment.  Though we may even forget about the traumatic event, our bodies remember and store the energy and emotion and future encounters with similar details of past trauma such as smells, sights, feelings, sounds, circumstances, logistics, and more can trigger re-living in full the past traumatic episode.  This is known as post-traumatic stress –  and may show up in the body as feeling overwhelmed, muscle tension, trouble sleeping, brain fog or trouble focusing, anxiety, depression and more.  

Somato Emotional Release works by leveraging the innate nature and ability of the body to heal itself through craniosacral bodywork and assessment and treatment of the body’s tissues to release these energies and restore optimal craniosacral rhythm and fascial function.  

Craniosacral rhythm

The natural flow and motion of the cerebrospinal fluid that feeds, lubricates,  and detoxifies the central nervous system.  Cerebrospinal fluid surrounds the spinal cord and brain and its rhythm yields insight on how the body is processing, moving through and releasing stored emotions.  Trauma, both energy cysts and fascia restrictions, can disrupt the craniosacral rhythm.


A  whole-body continuous connective tissue sheath surrounding every single component of the body, including all organs, bones, blood vessels, nerve fibers, right down to all individual cells.  Fascia restrictions can be identified and cleared through craniosacral therapy which balances the body’s natural hydraulic forces and encourages the inherent natural healing abilities of all the tissue restrictions holding emotional memory.

The aim in Somato Emotional Release is to identify any underlying physical and or emotional trauma in the form of fascia restrictions, tension patterns, and ‘energy cysts’  – all of which are disruptive to the controlled functioning energy system and efficient function of the body.   Additionally, it’s not unusual to involve the patient in treatment with verbal cues and dialogue to guide the patient into deeper connection with their body to more precisely locate energy cysts. Including breathing techniques during the session.

It’s not unusual for patients receiving treatment to undergo breakthroughs and spontaneously experience an emotional release, crying, laughing, etc. express or feel some other type of positive sensations.  Responses to breakthroughs in treating trauma with Somato Emotional Release are different for everyone and there is no singular way to express relief.   What’s important to experience in treatment is personal growth, resolution of long held issues, improved personal wellness and emotional fulfillment.

Somato Emotional Release is particularly well suited for those experiencing physical or emotional ailments that have seemingly emerged from nowhere and those seeking feelings of relaxation, greater happiness and an improved overall quality of life. Somato Emotional Release can also supplement anyone feeling they’re plateauing with talk therapy or interested in exploring an alternative healing method.   Somato Emotional Release can:

  • Help you identify and more clearly understand your personal traumas and how they have affected you.
  • Facilitate with emotional healing and recovery from traumatic life events
  • Facilitate surfacing suppressed memories 
  • Provide relief from physical soreness, stiffness, headache and pain
  • Help identify, process, and release stress, grief, depression, anxiety and more
  • Resolve digestive disorders, chronic pain, and neurological issues 

If you’ve ever considered taking a fresh look at wellness difficulties you experience in your life, to move forward in your healing journey, Somato Emotional Release is a therapeutic approach worth considering. It is a  trauma-sensitive, gentle and inclusive experience that lets your body be the guide.

Adam Mulliogan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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