September 4


Unlocking the Secrets of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: What You Need to Know

By Joshua Turner

September 4, 2023

Sensorimotor psychotherapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the connection between the body and the mind. It is based on the idea that our experiences are stored not only in our minds but also in our bodies and that by working with the body, we can access and process these experiences more effectively.

This approach can benefit people who have experienced trauma, allowing them to work through their experiences in a safe and supportive environment. It can also be valuable for people who have difficulty expressing their emotions verbally, as it provides an alternative way of communicating and processing their experiences.

We can gain insight into our emotional and psychological states by paying attention to the body’s sensations, movements, and postures.

Key Takeaways

The Foundation of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a type of psychotherapy that combines traditional talk therapy with somatic therapy. Dr. Pat Ogden, the founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute, developed it. The approach is based on the idea that the mind and body are interconnected and that past experiences can be stored in the body and the mind.

Its history can be traced back to the 1970s when Dr. Ogden began working with survivors of sexual abuse. She noticed that many of her clients had difficulty accessing and expressing their emotions and that traditional talk therapy was not always effective in helping them heal.

This led her to explore the connection between the body and the mind and to develop techniques for working with the body in therapy.

The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute was founded in 1981, and since then, the approach has been used to treat a wide range of mental health issues, including trauma, anxiety, depression, and addiction. The approach is also used in couples therapy and family therapy.

The approach is influenced by other somatic therapies, such as the Hakomi Method, which also emphasizes the importance of the body in treatment. However, it is unique in its focus on the connection between the body and the mind and its specific techniques for working with the body in therapy.

It is a promising approach to psychotherapy that has helped many people heal from past traumas and improve their mental health.

Understanding Trauma

Trauma is a term used to describe the emotional and psychological response to a traumatic event or experience. Traumatic experiences can include physical or emotional abuse, neglect, natural disasters, accidents, or sexual abuse. It can have a significant impact on a person’s mental health, leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Trauma treatment typically involves a combination of therapy, medication, and support from loved ones. However, traditional talk therapy may not always effectively treat complex trauma, especially childhood trauma. Hence, this is where sensorimotor psychotherapy comes in.


The approach recognizes that the body holds onto traumatic memories and that these memories can manifest in physical symptoms such as chronic pain, tension, and digestive issues.

In sensorimotor psychotherapy, the therapist helps the client to become aware of their bodily sensations and to use movement and mindfulness techniques to release stored trauma. This approach can be valuable for survivors of sexual abuse, as it allows them to process traumatic memories without talking about them directly.

It offers a unique and practical approach to trauma treatment that considers the mind-body connection. Addressing traumatic memories physically can help clients experience long-lasting healing and relief from symptoms.

The Role of the Body in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

It is believed that somatic symptoms are the body’s way of communicating distress and that by working with the body, we can access and process unconscious emotional and cognitive material. This somatic therapy approach is grounded in neuroscience and recognizes the intimate connection between the mind and body.

The body-centered approach involves paying attention to physical sensations and movements in the present moment. Bringing awareness to bodily sensations can identify and release the tension and trauma held in the body. This integration process allows for the resolution of physical symptoms and the healing of emotional wounds.

The nervous system is also a key player; understanding the way the nervous system responds to stress and trauma can allow us to work with the body to regulate the autonomic nervous system and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It is a body psychotherapy approach that recognizes the importance of somatic symptoms and works with the body to heal emotional wounds. We can access and process unconscious material by bringing awareness to bodily sensations, leading to a deeper sense of integration and well-being.

The Therapeutic Process

The therapeutic process involves an experiential approach to healing that focuses on the mind-body connection. The therapist works collaboratively with the client to create a safe environment where the client can explore their experiences and emotions.

During therapy sessions, the therapist uses various interventions and techniques to help clients become more aware of their bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions. Mindfulness is a critical component of the therapy, and the therapist helps the client develop their ability to be present in the moment and observe their experiences without judgment.

The therapy is divided into three phases: stabilization, processing, and integration. In the stabilization phase, the therapist helps the client develop coping skills to manage dissociation and stress. The processing phase involves exploring and processing traumatic experiences, while the integration phase focuses on integrating new insights and ventures into the client’s life.

The therapist also focuses on creating safety in the therapeutic relationship, which is necessary for healing. The client’s cognitive and emotional safety is prioritized, and the therapist works to establish a solid therapeutic alliance with the client.

The therapist works to help the client develop healthier relationships with themselves and others. It aims to help the client achieve their goals and make positive changes in their life.


They may also incorporate techniques such as posture and movement to help the client regulate their nervous system and reduce stress. Talk therapy is also used, but the therapist focuses on the client’s bodily sensations and experiences rather than solely on verbal communication.

The process is focused on creating a safe and supportive environment where the client can explore their experiences and emotions, develop coping skills, and work towards healing and positive change.

Emotional and Behavioral Impact

One of its benefits is its ability to help clients manage their emotions. Working with the body can help clients identify the physical sensations accompanying different feelings and develop strategies for addressing these sensations. It can be particularly helpful for those who struggle with emotional dysregulation, as it can help them to gain greater control over their emotional responses.

Another benefit is its ability to help clients develop more positive behavioral patterns. This approach can help clients become more aware of their thoughts and behaviors through mindfulness and other techniques and create more positive habits. This can be especially helpful for those who struggle with anger management, as it can help them identify and address their anger’s underlying causes.

It can help clients to develop a stronger sense of self-esteem. This approach can help clients to develop a greater sense of self-awareness and identify and challenge negative self-talk. It can be valuable for those who struggle with low self-esteem, as it can help them to develop a more positive and confident sense of self.

The Role of Neuroscience

Neuroscience provides us with a better understanding of how the nervous system works and how it can be affected by traumatic experiences.

Through neuroscience research, we know that traumatic experiences can lead to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system, which controls our fight or flight response. This dysregulation can result in chronic hypervigilance, anxiety, and depression. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy aims to address these dysregulations by working with the body and the nervous system to facilitate healing.

Understanding the role of neuroscience in trauma can help individuals develop a better sense of self-awareness and self-regulation. This approach recognizes that the body holds the key to healing and that by working with the body, we can release trauma and restore balance to the nervous system.

Treatment Outcomes and Effectiveness

One study found that sensorimotor psychotherapy was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms, with participants reporting a significant decrease in hyperarousal, avoidance, and re-experiencing symptoms.

Another study found that this therapy was effective in helping clients reintegrate into their daily lives and improve their overall functioning.

The approach is a completion-oriented therapy, meaning that the goal is to help clients complete the unfinished business that may be contributing to their symptoms. This approach can be particularly effective for individuals who have experienced trauma, as it helps them process and integrate their experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

Application to Different Groups

The treatment can be applied to different groups, including children, teens, and families. For children, it can help them regulate their emotions, enhance their social skills, and improve their academic performance. Children can learn to express their feelings and needs healthily and adaptively by working with their bodies.


For teens, it can help them develop a positive self-image, improve their relationships with their peers and family, and reduce their risk of risky behaviors. Teenagers can better understand their inner world and learn to cope with stress and anxiety by exploring their bodily sensations and emotions.

For families, it can improve communication, build trust, and strengthen relationships. Working together can make families learn to express their feelings and needs in a safe and supportive environment. It can also help families address issues related to trauma, addiction, and other challenges.

Resources and Further Reading

The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute offers workshops and training for mental health professionals who want to incorporate this approach into their practice. They also have a list of certified therapists who have completed their training program.

There are several books available, including:

  •  “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment” by Pat Ogden
  •  “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk
  • “Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy” by Pat Ogden, Kekuni Minton, and Clare Pain.

In addition to books and workshops, online resources are available for those interested in learning more about it. The Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute has a blog sharing articles and resources related to this approach. There are also online communities and forums where mental health professionals can connect and share information and resources.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between somatic experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?

Somatic Experiencing and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy are both body-oriented approaches to therapy. However, Somatic Experiencing primarily focuses on releasing trauma through the body, while Sensorimotor Psychotherapy emphasizes the integration of body and mind to promote healing.

What are the steps of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?

It involves three main steps: mindfulness, processing, and integration. During mindfulness, clients learn to recognize their bodily sensations and emotions. In processing, clients explore the underlying causes of their symptoms. Finally, in integration, clients learn to integrate their experiences into their daily lives.

Why is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy helpful?

It is helpful because it addresses the root causes of symptoms rather than just treating them themselves. Focusing on the connection between the body and mind can help clients heal from trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?

It is a type of therapy that emphasizes the connection between the body and mind. It involves mindfulness, processing, and integration to help clients heal from trauma, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.

Where can I find Sensorimotor Psychotherapy training?

Training is available through the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and other organizations. It is typically available for mental health professionals, including therapists, counselors, and social workers.

Are there any examples of Sensorimotor therapy?

Some examples of techniques include grounding, resourcing, and titration. Grounding involves connecting with the present moment through the senses. Resourcing consists in identifying and cultivating internal resources to promote healing. Titration involves breaking down overwhelming experiences into smaller, more manageable parts.

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