Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a type of therapy based on the principles of body-work and is used for treating people experiencing somatic symptoms of trauma and PTSD.
It was developed by Dr. Pat Ogden after working in a psychiatric hospital as a dance and yoga teacher. In her work with clients, Ogden observed a link between the clients’ disconnection from their bodies and how that related to their presenting mental health issues. Following her curiosity in this phenomenon, Ogden opened the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute in 1981, and her work has been elaborated on significantly since.
Ogden’s Sensorimotor psychotherapy involves a combination of psychotherapy and somatic therapy, incorporating elements of attachment theory, neuroscience, and applications of cognitive therapies.
How it works
Sensorimotor psychotherapy takes a gentle, trauma-informed approach to working with clients. By emphasising mindfulness and fostering a sense of dual awareness (thoughts and sensations), clients are invited into a greater awareness of their bodies and how they may have been influenced physically by the traumatic event.
When our bodies hold experiences, memories, and feelings that are unresolved, we can display a number of behaviours that are damaging to our health. Sensorimotor psychotherapy promotes clients’ awareness of, and acceptance of the present moment while exploring their issues. This acceptance and understanding ultimately reduces the need for ‘survival resources’, or ways we have adapted to cope with our life circumstances. Survival resources may includeOgden P, Pain C, Fisher J (2006) A sensorimotor approach to the treatment of trauma and dissociation. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 29, 263-279.:
- Addictive substances and behaviours
- Eating disorders
- Self-destructive behaviours
Who is sensorimotor psychotherapy for?
Sensorimotor psychotherapy is an effective treatment for trauma survivors who are suffering from symptoms of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, which can manifest as:
The benefits of sensorimotor psychotherapy
Each individual will have a unique response to Sensorimotor psychotherapy, as it relates to specific issues a client is dealing with and their particular circumstances and personality. The client’s own journey is of great importance to the work. Typically, clients who are involved in Sensorimotor Therapy experience a wide range of benefits, includingSensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. n.d. Resources – Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. [online] Available at: <https://sensorimotorpsychotherapy.org/resources/#client-education> [Accessed 15 July 2020].:
- Reduced physical and emotional pain
- Less severe PTSD symptoms
- Reduced anxiety
- Improved interpersonal relationships
- Greater capacity for intimacy
- Improved physical alignment
- Greater emotional regulation
- Attunement to the self
- Improved boundaries
- Reintegration of dissociated parts of the self
Sensorimotor psychotherapy and the somatic experience
Trauma impacts us in many ways, and one of these is how we carry ourselves and use our bodies. Through a combination of psychotherapy and an encouragement to follow the flow of our body, and to become more aware of our somatic/bodily experiences, we can develop more resilience in the face of our issues.