Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

This week I thought I would introduce you to a method of therapy that a few of our therapists are trained in, it is called Sensorimotor Psychotherapy.

What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

This method is a body-centered approach that aims to treat the symptoms of unresolved trauma in the body. While traditional talk therapies utilize the words of a person as the first step for treatment, this type of therapy depends on the bodily experiences of the individual as an entry to awareness and treatment of traumatic events.

The founders

Pat Ogden, founder and director of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, and Janina Fisher, a clinical psychologist specializing in trauma, put together psychological and medical models to help explain why we physically respond to stimuli the way we do. Many clients ask questions during sessions like “Why is my body so tight?” or “Why can’t I sleep at night?” People want to know why their bodies react to psychological stressors such as frustration, trauma, rejection, fear, and anxiety. Why do our bodies seem programmed to respond to these stimuli?

Interventions for Trauma and Attachment

Ogden and Fisher wrote a book, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment,  which describes how the brain-body connection influences our lives — our emotions, thoughts, and physiological responses. This connection is especially important for clients who have traumatic histories. In the 19th century, most people believed that emotions were the only explanation for disease, stress, and other somatic complaints. Now, most scientists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals believe that many disorders have a biological foundation — they can be triggered or influenced by biology. For example, autism spectrum disorders, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are all said to have a biological basis.

More than just words

Therapists many times focus on what happens in the mind, psychologically, and what happens to the emotions. In their book Ogden and Fisher highlight the importance of the mind-body connection. When a family comes to therapy to discuss negative feelings between members, many therapists strive to understand how each family member interacts on a daily basis, why certain interpersonal relationships are strained, and how to fix the issue. However therapists who are trained in the mind-body connection explore the positions of certain family members’ bodies during the session, body language (facial expressions, body posture, eye contact), and other somatic responses to stress to understand how these influence all our relationships.

Biological Basis

When many parents bring in their kids for help, they feel relieved to know there may be a biological foundation underneath their child’s behavioral disorder. Once they understand this, they often feel optimistic that the therapy may provide some relief. If you would like to read more about the Centers work with trauma and attachment please click on the link.

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