One Method for Processing Traumatic Memory

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Traumatology
Volume VI, Issue 3, Article 3 (October, 2000)

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy:

One Method for Processing Traumatic Memory

Pat Ogden, Ph.D. and Kekuni Minton, PhD.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and Naropa University
Boulder, Colorado

Abstract

Traditional psychotherapy addresses the cognitive and emotional elements of trauma, but lacks techniques that work directly with the physiological elements, despite the fact that trauma profoundly affects the body and many symptoms of traumatized individuals are somatically based. Altered relationships among cognitive, emotional, and sensorimotor (body) levels of information processing are also found to be implicated in trauma symptoms. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a method that integrates sensorimotor processing with cognitive and emotional processing in the treatment of trauma. Unassimilated somatic responses evoked in trauma involving both arousal and defensive responses are shown to contribute to many PTSD symptoms and to be critical elements in the use of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. By using the body (rather than cognition or emotion) as a primary entry point in processing trauma, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy directly treats the effects of trauma on the body, which in turn facilitates emotional and cognitive processing. This method is especially beneficial for clinicians working with dissociation, emotional reactivity or flat affect, frozen states or hyperarousal and other PTSD symptoms. In this article, we discuss Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, emphasizing sensorimotor processing techniques which can be integrated with traditional approaches that treat these symptoms. Because the therapist’s ability to interactively regulate clients’ dysregulated states and also to cultivate clients’ self-awareness of inner body sensations is crucial to this approach, three sessions are described illustrating the clinical application of this method.

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