Developed by Pat Ogden, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is an approach to healing trauma through the body. In this modality, it is suggested that trauma is stored in the body in the form of action tendencies, or urges to act, and that by paying attention to and completing these actions in the context of a supportive relationship with the therapist, the impact of trauma can be released from the body.
When recalling traumatic memories, they are often experienced as though they are happening again as the body prepares to defend itself against danger. When this happens, the “thinking” brain becomes less active, and the nervous system reacts as though it is fighting to survive, even when the threat has long passed. Because of this, the body needs to learn that it is safe in the present. Clients are guided to track the actions that the body wants to take and are guided in completing these actions. This allows memories to be “updated” with a new sense of mastery and control that was not present when they initially occurred.
Sensorimotor psychotherapists are skilled at attuning to the moment-by-moment experience of the client and bringing client’s awareness to their inner sensations or urges to act to aid in the processing of trauma memories. New bodily felt experiences can in turn shift cognitive processes, leading to a “bottom-up” healing process. Clients are still encouraged in sharing their story, with the added layer of being guided in attending to their inner experiences as they emerge in the present.
References: Ogden, P., Minton, K. & Pain, C. Trauma and the body: a sensorimotor approach to psychotherapy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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