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Somatic Experiencing: Enhancing Psychoanalytic Holding and Containment for Complex Trauma and Dissociation (David Levit, Ph.D., ABPP, SEP, Amherst, MA )

  • 17 Mar 2024
  • 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
  • Hybrid - In person: Henderson Room, 3rd Floor, the Michigan League. Online: Zoom Link provided with registration confirmation. Register online


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In this presentation, Dr. Levit will speak about interweaving somatic approaches from outside of psychoanalysis into psychoanalytic treatment, especially for patients suffering from early developmental trauma and severe dissociation. Somatic experiencing (SE), developed originally as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder, is rooted in neurophysiology, biology and ethology. As an approach to psychotherapy, it introduces ways of working in the body that are quite different from psychoanalytic modes. Dr. Levit, trained in SE, will provide an overview of the SE model, but the focus of the presentation will be on illustrating how somatically based approaches from SE can meld with, and enhance, psychoanalytic treatment. He will present clinical process material

illustrating forms of responsiveness based on SE. In discussing each vignette, he will invoke Ogden’s notion of looking at any clinical process from multiple conceptual vertices. Dr. Levit will consider each vignette from the perspectives of SE, holding, and containing. In so doing, he hopes to illustrate the benefits of interweaving SE into psychoanalytic treatment.

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this workshop, participants will be able to

1. Illustrate and explain how a technique from Somatic Experiencing can enhance psychoanalytic holding (when holding is defined as minimizing impingements).

2. Describe at least two techniques/interventions from Somatic Experiencing that would be appropriate when a patient exhibits signs of extreme autonomic over-activation or of dissociative freeze state.

3. Discuss a clinical moment with a patient and explain how they might apply a

specific somatically based intervention.


David Levit, Ph.D., ABPP, SEP is a Diplomate in both Psychoanalysis and Clinical Psychology, as well as a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP). He is a Fellow at both the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis and the American Academy of Clinical Psychology. His current faculty positions are: Faculty and Supervising Psychoanalyst, Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis (MIP); Co- founder, Chair, and Faculty, MIP Postgraduate Fellowship Program–West; and Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is former Associate Clinical Professor in Psychiatry, Tufts Medical School, and former Adjunct Associate Professor, Smith College School for Social Work. He has written about the interweaving

of Somatic Experiencing into psychoanalytic treatment and has presented extensively on this subject regionally, nationally, and internationally. He is in private practice in Amherst, MA, where he provides individual psychotherapy and psychoanalysis for adults and consultation for colleagues.


Kuhfuß, M., Maldei, T., Hetmanek, A., & Baumann, N. (2021). Somatic experiencing – effectiveness and key factors of a body-oriented trauma therapy: A scoping literature review. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1), 1-17.

Levine, P. A., Blakeslee, A., & Sylvae, J. (2018). Reintegrating fragmentation of the primitive self: Discussion of “Somatic experiencing.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues,

28(5), 620-628.

Levit, D. (2018). Somatic experiencing: In the realms of trauma and dissociation–What

we can do, when what we do, is really not good enough. Psychoanalytic

Dialogues, 28(5), 586-601.

Levit, D. (2022). Somatic experiencing: Enhancing psychoanalytic holding for trauma and catastrophic dissociation–contending with the flood and the fog.

Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 32(3), 235-252.

Levit, D. (2022). The essence of somatic experiencing and its contribution to

psychoanalytic treatment: Reply to Jody Davies and Elizabeth Howell.

Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 32(3), 269-277.

Ogden, T. H. (2004). On holding and containing, being and dreaming. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 85, 1349-1364.

Van der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the

healing of trauma. New York, NY: Penguin Books.

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