Sensorimotor Psychotherapy refers to a body-centered approach whose goal is to treat the bodily symptoms of unresolved trauma. While traditional talk therapies rest the therapeutic procedure upon the words of a person as the entry point for treatment, this type of therapy relies on the bodily experiences of the individual as a gateway to awareness and improved mental health.
What to expect?
The sensorimotor approach employs a person’s physical, mental, and emotional states to gently manage and relieve the physical sensations which are associated with a trauma. During traumatic situations, the bodily reactions follow a specific pattern (fight, freeze, or flight) so that the likelihood of survival can be maximized. Although some of these health-promoting responses are not completed or even attempted during a past traumatic event (for an instance, a victim of domestic abuse may have decided not to fight back). These unfulfilled responses sometimes gets stuck in the nervous system of the affected person leading to physical mannerisms (slouching, shaking, or nervous tics) or result in anxiety, depression, helplessness, and isolation.
How is it used?
How a therapy session progresses depends upon the needs and trauma-processing capacity of a person who seeking treatment and upon the skill of the therapist besides level of training. There are three major steps involved in the therapy as follows:
- Step 1: Creating a corner of emotional safety. This is achieved through rapport building and is considered to be important as it can allow an affected individual to be more focused upon the movements, impulses, and physical sensations in a setting where he or she feels protected. Personal awareness of body positions, gestures, and even breathing patterns increases.
- Step 2: When the person taking the therapy is ready to speak about the trauma experienced, the therapist directs the individual to recall the time period leading up to the incident and to speak about emotional changes and bodily responses currently being experienced.
- Step 3: The individual is assisted to complete the desired movement or action that may have been truncated or have not found exposure in the past. For example, this may involve, a victim of childhood sexual abuse it may involve finally saying the word “NO.” or a person who experienced domestic violence, raising an arm in defense.
Through sensorimotor therapy, people are frequently able to develop a greater sense of control over their responses to trauma-related triggers, have an increased awareness about the ways that trauma can affect mind and body, learn to demarcate between past and present, and develop the ability to pay attention to personal thoughts and somatic or bodily experiences without getting overwhelmed by a traumatic event.
When is it used?
The effectiveness of this approach has been supported by neuroscience research. The approach may be beneficial to clients who have experienced PTSD, Various forms of abuse, Relationship issues, Substance dependency, Anxiety, Depression , Anger and other emotional issues and Development issues.
Role of therapist:
Therapists trained in sensorimotor therapy techniques might an individual begin to heal by assisting that person re-experience, in a environment that is safe, the physical sensations which are associated with a traumatic event thereby releasing the trauma and uplifting health promoting behaviour .
Felber, M. (n.d.). What is sensorimotor psychotherapy? Retrieved from http://www.marriagecpr.com/sensorimotor-therapy.html
Fisher, J. (2011). Sensorimotor approaches to trauma treatment. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 17(3), 171-177.
Fisher, J., Ogden, P., & Pain, C. (2006). A sensorimotor approach to the treatment of trauma and dissociation. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 29(1), 263-279.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute. (n.d.). History of sensorimotor psychotherapy.