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About Clinical Somatics

Clinical Somatics™ (also known as Clinical Somatic Education™) is the direct, hands-on method developed by Thomas Hanna for teaching voluntary, conscious control of the neuromuscular system to persons suffering involuntary muscular disorders. Founded on a wealth of scientific evidence, Clinical Somatics promotes improved well-being and aids in speeding up the recovery time from illness. This is achieved by creating an awareness and means of acting upon the body's warning signals. In Hanna's words, “It is the most advanced system known for relieving chronic disorders which, otherwise, are untreatable by either medical or traditional therapeutic means.” (Hanna, 1990)

It was Dr. Hanna's discovery that perhaps as many as fifty percent of the cases of chronic pain are caused by what he termed sensory-motor amnesia (SMA). This is a condition in which the sensory-motor neurons of the voluntary cortex have lost some portion of their ability to control all or some of the muscles of the body. Problems such as poor posture or a bad back then occur when the ability to contract or relax a muscle group has been surrendered to subcortical reflexes — leading to weakness, soreness, and distorted body movement or compromised weight distribution that can cause secondary pain typically mistaken for arthritis, bursitis, herniated disks, etc.

Clinical Somatics™ shows us that half of all chronic pain exists because the body becomes powerless to relax certain muscles. Simply put, the "conscious" or voluntary cortex of the brain has lost or forgotten how to do so and must be recalibrated.

The foundation of Hanna's system was established in his 1970 publication Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking, which demonstrated the relation between sensory awareness and physiological efficiency. An additional component of Clinical Somatic Education is the tradition of Feldenkrais sensory-motor training, introduced in the United States in 1975 under the direction of Dr. Hanna. The theoretical background of this tradition is outlined in Hanna's 1980 publication The Body of Life.

The major clinical techniques of Clinical Somatics have been developed out of the neurophysiological foundations of self-regulation training and biofeedback. Dr. Elmer Green, the illustrious pioneer of self-regulation training and founder of The Menninger Clinic's Voluntary Controls Program, says that Hanna's contribution to this field “is a milestone on the way to this understanding and to better health. If I could, I would put [Hanna's book] in the hands of every neurologist, internist, nurse, psychophysiologic therapist, and clinical psychologist in the country. What is explained in the book is not part of their regular medical education. To be complete therapists, though, they need to include, or incorporate, this information in practice.”

Dr. Dieter Kallinke, pain specialist in Germany's largest rehabilitation clinic and close student of Hanna's system says that it ”answers questions that the experts are only beginning to ask.”

Click here to read more about the clinical techniques of Clinical Somatic Education.

Thomas Hanna

Thomas Hanna, Ph.D., was a philosopher and somatic educator, who founded the field of somatics in 1970 with the book Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking.

He received his doctorate from the University of Chicago for his dissertation on existential phenomenology, later published as The Lyrical Existentialists. Hanna taught at Hollins College, where he became Chairman of the Department of Philosophy. He was also writer-in-residence at Duke University and the University of North Carolina in their Cooperative Program in the Humanities.

From 1965 to 1973, Hanna was Chairman of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Florida, where he had been hired to create the department's first doctoral program in philosophy. Hanna was elected a Fellow in the American Council of Learned Societies, which in 1969-1979 subsidized his writing of Bodies in Revolt: A Primer in Somatic Thinking. In 1971, he was elected the first President of the newly created Faculty Senate of the University of Florida.

Hanna came to San Francisco in 1973 to become Director of a noted graduate school, the Humanistic Psychology Institute. During this time, he founded and directed the first training program in Functional Integration, taught by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais from 1975 to 1977. In his practice of somatic education Hanna saw clients from all over the world.

He was the author of eight books, including Somatics, which has been published in English, French, German, Russian, Hungarian, and Spanish. Although Dr. Hanna passed away in 1990, his teachings and techniques live on at Somatic Systems Institute's Professional Training Program.

Praise For Somatics:

Thomas Hanna's subtle exercises offer the exciting possibility that we can continue to be supple and graceful. Highly recommended for those who hang on past 30s.”

—Arthur J. Deikman, M.D., University of California, San Francisco; author, The Observing Self

“One of the most profound revolutions in our thinking concerns the fundamental connections between body and mind. Now that we begin to understand something of our inner healing powers, along comes Somatics to give form and shape to our new-found knowledge.”

—Paul DuBois, Ph.D., Executive Director, Association for Humanistic Psychology

“The missing link between many doctors and their patients can be rediscovered if both parties understand what Somatics is really about; how wisely and wonderfully we are organized to live a better life than many of us do.”

—Mark Schmid-Neuhaus, M.D., Chief Physician, Munich Health Park