WMAAPP Pioneer Valley Area Study Group
David Levit, Ph.D., ABPP
Somatic Experiencing: Enhancing Psychoanalytic Holding for Trauma and Catastrophic Dissociation – Contending with the Flood and the Fog
Zoom Presentation—10:00 am—12:00 pm
Dr. Levit’s presentation is based on a paper that will be
coming out this spring in Psychoanalytic Dialogues (along
with discussions of it in the same issue by Jody Davies and
Elizabeth Howell). Dr. Levit continues here the project of
interweaving principles and approaches from a somatically
based trauma therapy, Somatic Experiencing (SE), into
psychoanalytic treatment. He focuses on patients with severe
early traumas who are chronically vulnerable to states of
catastrophic dissociative dissolution. When dissociation takes
this form, not merely compartmentalization, but dis-
mentalization, there is no self who is present, who can hear,
take in, and participate in the desperately needed holding and
containment that we offer.
Traumas in the patient’s history
and mind/body, which are precariously held behind a dam of
dissociation, can burst through with such violence as to
annihilate any semblance of “going on being.” While this
must occur in treatment, and while we must accompany our
patients there, it is a terrible dilemma when the floods, and
then the fog, continually interfere with the patient’s ability to
take in and receive our psychoanalytic forms of provision.
When this goes on for too long, it may become iatrogenic
more than therapeutic.
Dr. Levit reviews various forms of
holding and containment, but focuses on one specific type of
holding: protecting the patient from annihilating
impingements. While Winnicott emphasized impingements
from the outer world, Dr. Levit extends this to impingements
that burst through from within, the catastrophic states
themselves. He will present a case to demonstrate how
drawing upon somatic approaches from SE substantially
enhanced this form of Holding, and how it informed more
broadly his psychoanalytic ways of looking, listening,
thinking, and responding. He will attempt to illustrate how
somatically based interventions can interweave into
psychoanalytic modes of therapeutic action.
About the Presenter
David Levit, Ph.D., ABPP, SEP, is a Diplomate in
Psychoanalysis and in Clinical Psychology. He is a Fellow at
the American Board and Academy of Psychoanalysis and a
Fellow at the American Academy of Clinical Psychology. He
is also a SEP (Somatic Experiencing Practitioner). His current
faculty positions are: Faculty and Supervising Analyst,
Massachusetts Institute of Psychoanalysis (MIP); Co-founder,
Chair, and Faculty, MIP Postgraduate Fellowship Program-
West; Instructor in Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts
Medical School. His office is in Amherst, MA where he
provides individual psychotherapy and psychoanalysis for
adults and consultation for colleagues.
Bromberg, P.M. (2008). Shrinking the tsunami: Affect
regulation, dissociation, and the shadow of the flood.
Contemporary Psychoanalysis 44, 329-350.
Levine, P. A. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body
releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North
Levine, P.A., Blakeslee, A., & Sylvae, J. (2018).
Reintegrating fragmentation of the primitive self: Discussion
of “Somatic Experiencing.” Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 28(5),
Levit, D. (2018a). 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),
Levit, D. (2018b). Continuing the dialogue between
psychoanalysis and Somatic Experiencing: Reply to Bass,
Leddick, Levine, Blakeslee, Sylvae, and Lombardi.
Psychoanalytic Dialogues, 28(5), 640-645.
Winnicott, D. W. (1965). The maturational process and the
facilitating environment: Studies in the theory of emotional
development. London, England: The Hogarth Press and the
Institute of Psycho-Analysis.
After attending this intermediate-level program, participants will be able:
- To articulate how the psychoanalytic concept of dissociation
overlaps with neurobiological models of dysregulation
that occurs when a person feels intensely endangered..
- To discuss ways in which somatic interventions from Somatic
Experiencing can enhance psychoanalytic Holding as
defined by Winnicott.
- To name and describe at least three interventions from
- To discuss a clinical moment with a patient and how a specific
somatically based intervention might be therapeutically
2.0 CE credits are available to psychologists and psychoanalysts, and 2.5 CE credits will be provided for social workers and LMHCs.
Division 39 is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Division 39 maintains responsibility for this program and its content.
Division 39 is committed to accessibility and non-discrimination in its continuing education activities. Division 39 is also committed to conducting all activities in conformity with the American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles for Psychologists. Participants are asked to be aware of the need for privacy and confidentiality throughout the program. If program content becomes stressful, participants are encouraged to process these feelings during the discussion periods. If participants have special needs, we will attempt to accommodate them. Please address questions, concerns or any complaints to Judith Rosenberger, Ph.D., LCSW (917) 459-3432.
WMAAPP is the local chapter of Division 39 (Psychoanalysis) of the American Psychological Association.
Location and Registration
In order to receive the Zoom link for this presentation,
please register/RSVP for this study group from your preferred
email address to Patricia Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Zoom link will then be emailed to you, and again the
night before the presentation. CE credits will be awarded after
the presentation through an online evaluation form that will
be sent to the email address you register with.
This program is for WMAAPP members only, If you wish to bring a guest, or for further information,
please contact Patricia Everett at (413) 256–3539 or