Sensorimotor Psychotherapy - Learning to Work with the Wisdom of the Body
What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?
Sensorimotor psychotherapy (SP) is a body-centred talk therapy designed to address cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms of trauma-related disorders.
It is an approach that aims to treat the somatic symptoms of unresolved trauma in the body. It emphasizes mindfulness and awareness of the connection between the client's mind and body. Clients who hold traumatic experiences store emotions that become trapped deep within the body. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information, which can help to access and process challenging experiences.
How does Sensorimotor Psychotherapy work?
SP helps an individual begin to heal by helping that person re-experience, in a safe environment, the physical sensations associated with a traumatic event. It enables clients to discover and change habitual physical and psychological patterns that impede with the optimal functioning and well being in daily life. It also works with the limiting belief systems of developmental issues. SP is a comprehensive treatment approach developed by Pat Ogden, PhD. It combines techniques from psychotherapy and somatic therapy.
Let’s look at it in this way; when a person experiences a traumatic situation, usually the body reacts in specific ways such as going into a fight, flight or freeze mode. Clients are unable to process emotions due to heightened senses, fear or denial and emotions can become stuck in the affected person’s nervous system. Because of that and if left untreated, feelings of anxiety, depression, helplessness and isolation can occur as a result of it.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy helps the individual in therapy re-experience the traumatic events in a safe environment in order to achieve a feeling of completion and closure. Details of the trauma do not necessarily need to be recalled for the treatment to be effective.
What can Sensorimotor Psychotherapy help with?
Anxiety and depression
Difficulty concentrating due to fear
Upsetting thoughts, unwelcome physical sensations,- anger, and other emotional issues
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Difficulties feeling hopeful and experiencing pleasure
Relationship related wounds (emotional, physical abuse)
Neglect, harsh parenting during childhood, divorce or child-parent separations
Persistent negative thoughts about one’s ability to achieve or to be successful and deserving
Difficulty maintaining a job or a family, friendships and other relationships
Feeling detached from one’s self and the world
What are the results?
People are often able to develop a greater sense of control over their responses to trauma-related triggers.
They become more aware of the ways that trauma can affect mind and body and learn to differentiate between past and present.
By developing the ability to pay attention to personal thoughts and somatic experiences they can process a traumatic event without being overwhelmed by it.
With this approach, people are encouraged to pay attention to the somatic experience and allow themselves to be guided by their own body as the vehicle. By using somatic interventions and strategies, sensorimotor psychotherapy creates an effective body therapy that allows people in therapy to draw strength from their own inner resources and develop new ones.
Fisher, J. (2011). Sensorimotor approaches to trauma treatment.
Fisher, J., Ogden, P., & Pain, C. (2006). A sensorimotor approach to the treatment of trauma and dissociation