Founder Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute Broomfield, Colorado
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Patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting designed to navigate an unsafe, threatening world are solidified with repetitive use, and become harder and harder to modify as time goes on, especially for those with complex trauma. Sometimes described as “intractable,” “resistant,” “hard-to-treat,” “stuck,” and even “impossible,” these clients feel powerless, often become victims again and again, tend to blame themselves or what happened to them and for their misery, and sink further into hopeless despair when therapy fails to help.
These maladaptive patterns are held in place by automatic, non-conscious physical and physiological habits and thus working directly with the body can loosen their grip. But therapists are sometimes convinced that their clients are too destabilized, dissociative, body phobic, low functioning, or otherwise challenged to benefit from body psychotherapy. Therapists themselves might feel ill at ease asking clients to be aware of their bodies, change their posture, or explore movement, and are often worried that attention to the body will exacerbate dissociation and dysregulation. Indeed, the sensations and movements of their own bodies and self-touch can be dysregulating for many clients with complex trauma, and they often do find somatic interventions triggering, anxiety provoking, shameful, unappealing, or a waste of time. However, these clients may be exactly the ones who stand to gain the most from working with the body. A major advantage of a somatic approach, in addition to bypassing explanations and rationalizations, lies in the fact that patterns of physiology, movement, and posture are tangible and can be directly and objectively observed, addressed, and changed in clinical practice.
In this plenary, the presenter will discuss the three major influences on Sensorimotor Psychotherapy’s approach to dissociation and parts work, and explore the challenges, risks and rewards of working somatically with those who suffer from complex trauma. Practical, easy to implement somatic interventions designed to initiate change in entrenched patterns will be elucidated and illustrated. Topics covered include how to win the client’s confidence in the body as a viable target of intervention, how to introduce body psychotherapy to the naïve client, the importance of body-oriented psychoeducation, working with physical action to create optimism and hope and develop confidence in the body as a resource. Recognizing that new actions, like new words, can be experienced as threatening or adversarial to certain parts of the self, we will look at how to prevent overriding parts when working with posture and movement, and how to draw on the body to integrate them. We will address the risks and liabilities of going “too far” and not going “far enough,” exploring titration strategies to work at the regulatory boundaries of the window of tolerance and prevent undue dysregulation. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy will be illustrated through video excerpts of consultation sessions of clients with complex trauma. Participants will walk away with a new perspective on how simple techniques that target the body can begin to open the door to change even for the most entrenched clients.
Discuss the risks of using body therapy with complex trauma
Describe three body oriented interventions to use for complex trauma
Explain how to use posture, movement and self-touch to integrate parts of the self