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Peter A. Levine, PhD (born 19 February 1942) is an American therapist, author and educator who specializes in the treatment and understanding of chronic stress and tonic immobility, more commonly known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (or PTSD). Dr. Levine is the developer of Somatic Experiencing® (a body awareness approach to the treatment of trauma) and founder of the non-profit educational and research organization dedicated to the worldwide healing and prevention of trauma, The Somatic Experiencing Training Institute (formerly known as The Foundation for Human Enrichment). He is also an author of numerous books about trauma and post traumatic stress disorder, including In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness and the New York Times Best Seller Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma.
Levine's psycho-physiological trauma theory is informed by what ethologists, or biologists who specialize in studying animal behavior in the wild, call the immobility response, a survival enhancing fixed action pattern evolved in prey animals which is triggered by the perceived imminence of being killed by a predator. Levine’s approach, as taught through Somatic Experiencing, is a slow, graduated and indirect approach to the trauma event, with a focus on completing the initiated survival responses, that were unable to complete at the time of the trauma, and discharging the immense amount of neurological memory that Dr. Levine believes is stored in the peripheral nervous system. This discharge is characterized by shaking or trembling, as well as vasodilation. This discharge helps the client to better integrate the broken sensory fragments of the event, and establishes what Dr. Levine calls “Creative Self-Regulation”. This is in contrast to most “talk” therapies, where the therapist tries to rally the client to accept what has happened, possibly through the retrieval of a lost episodic memory of the event.
Peter A. Levine, PhD, holds doctorates in both medical biophysics and psychology. The developer of Somatic Experiencing, Dr. Levine was a stress consultant for NASA on the development of the Space Shuttle program and was a member of the Institute of World Affairs Task Force of Psychologists for Social Responsibility in developing responses to large-scale disasters and ethno-political warfare. Levine’s original contribution to the field of Body Psychotherapy was honored in 2010 when he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy (USABP).
He also is the originator of "Somatic Experiencing®" method, a body-awareness approach to healing trauma / healing of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
B.S. University of Michigan, 1964: Physics Engineering; and minors in mathematics and psychology.
Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley, 1977: Department of Medical and Biological Physics: Group in Biophysics (Interdisciplinary Program in Physical Biology; Life Science, Neurophysiology, and Physiological Psychology.)
Ph.D. International University, Los Angeles, 1978; Independent Directed Tutorial, Psychology.