Effect of Somatic Experiencing resiliency-based trauma treatment training on quality of life and psychological health as potential markers of resilience in treating professionals

Neal E. Winblad, Michael Changaris, Phyllis K. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Individuals who treat trauma are at significant risk of vicarious traumatization and burnout. Somatic Experiencing® (SE®) is a resiliency-focused trauma treatment modality designed to address autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysregulation and its impacted physical health and mental health symptoms e.g., anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue, etc. The SE® training supports the development of clinical skills to reduce physical health/mental health symptoms as well as increase clinician resilience. Individuals who display resilience often have increased experiences of well-being (quality of life) and decreased levels of self-reported psychological symptoms. Greater resilience could mitigate the risks to providers and the clients they treat. Materials and Methods: This within-groups, longitudinal study assessed students (N = 18) over the course of a 3-year SE® practitioner training. This training focuses on increased ANS, physical, and emotional regulation skills. The convenience of a web-based survey allowed for: measures of a general quality of life (WHOQOL-BREF), psychological symptoms, somatic, anxiety, and depressive symptoms (PHQ-SADS), as well as a measure of early life exposure to adversity (CDC/Kaiser Permanente ACE Score Calculator Questionnaire). The clinician survey was conducted yearly for 3 years. Future studies would do well to also include laboratory-based objective measures of ANS functioning. Results: ANOVA with repeated measures showed that there were significant reductions in anxiety symptoms (GAD7, p < 0.001) and somatization symptoms (PHQ15, p < 0.001). Health-related quality of life (a measure of physical well-being) and social quality of life (a measure of interpersonal well-being) both increased significantly (Health QoL p = 0.028; Social QoL p = 0.046). Conclusions: Results suggest that professionals attending the 3-year SE® training course experience a significant improvement in self-reported measures associated with resiliency including: quality of life (well-being) and psychological symptoms (anxiety and somatization). Our results support the importance of future research in a larger sample and support the exploration, cross-sectionally and prospectively, of the relationship of clinician resiliency and changes in clinician resiliency with SE® training and clinical outcomes. These data have implications for other professions at risk of exposure to vicarious trauma (VT) including nurses, medical providers, and paramedics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number70
JournalFrontiers in Neuroscience
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - Feb 16 2018


  • ANS dysregulation
  • Burnout
  • Compassion fatigue
  • Quality of life
  • Resiliency
  • Somatic Experiencing®
  • Traumatic stress
  • Vicarious traumatization


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