Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – Benefits, Goals & How It Works
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy was developed in the 1980s by Pat Ogden, Ph.D. as a body-centered talking therapy. It was created to specifically address the body, and the physical/psychological symptoms of traumatic stress disorders.
Sensorimotor is a somatic approach that can be integrated into traditional talk therapy. Sensorimotor holds that traumatic experiences become ingrained in the body and mind. Sensorimotor Therapists teach their clients to begin knowing their own bodies to find maladaptive patterns and habits they may not be consciously aware of. Sensorimotor therapists believe that these protective ways of being can negatively affect an individual in various areas of their life, causing symptoms that would present as mental and physical health issues.
The therapist works with the client to uncover how their body holds/feels/experiences the issues the client came to address. Sensorimotor work focuses on strong emotions, limiting beliefs or physical symptoms and may be used in conjunction with other therapies.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy – How it works
While talk therapy does not always directly address and heal the individuals traumatic past, in sensorimotor psychotherapy, the therapist will help the individual safely unearth deeply held or hidden beliefs and feelings. There will be guidance on how to experience the trauma again to understand thoughts and feelings better.
When someone has been through a traumatic experience, their mind and bodies will often play a tape of the experience in memory, thought or physical experience, like tension or panic. The person is re-experiencing the trauma as a function of the nervous system. But by re-experiencing the trauma intentionally, in a safe environment, the individual can experience the physical symptoms and characteristics of the trauma on their own terms.
In this way, it’s possible to continue to build on the experience and on the trauma to help the patient toward something more positive in their future. However, this requires a safe space where the patient can feel comfortable and go through the trauma again to help them work through it and actually find a way to integrate it without being powerless to it. When clients begin to control the responses that occur when trauma triggers are present, they eventually feel less afraid and out of control, helping them be less overwhelmed by the trauma over time.
Goals and benefits
Healing trauma and moving clients toward overall health and wellness in body and mind is the broad goal of Sensorimotor, generally helping the client get more control out of their own life and feel more capable of achieving the things they desire.
More specific benefits can include pain reduction (both emotional and physical), reduction of PTSD symptoms; the reduction of anxiety and related physical symptoms; increased ability to regulate emotions; physical health; increased capacity for intimacy and fulfilled relationships; integration of dissociative parts; skills and awareness around boundary setting and an overall feeling of being more in touch with oneself. Sensorimotor is known to be adaptable and beneficial in it’s way to each client.