What Is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a body-oriented therapy that is focused on healing the whole person - physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually - allowing you to discover the physical and psychological automatic attitudes that develop your patterns of experience. This gentle therapy can teach you to follow the inherently intelligent process of your mind and body in order to discover deep change and healing. It is particularly helpful in helping people manage the effects of trauma, abuse and emotional pain.

This method was developed by Pat Ogden, Ph.D and colleagues in 1980s. It blends theory and technique from cognitive, affective, and psychodynamic therapy with somatic approaches, and has become a renowned method to treat some of the most difficult psychological struggles, including physical and emotional trauma.

Traumatic experiences often interrupt the natural rhythms of life and lead to disruptive body sensations, emotions, and thoughts. These tough experiences often get stored in sensory perceptions, posture and movement, as well as in emotions and thoughts, making them incredibly difficult to process. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy works by enabling clients to focus their awareness on the present moment, so that the client and the therapist can work together through the here and now. This work effects and alters the way that information is processed in the brain, which results in lasting transformation in the experience of the body, one’s self-image and their worldview. Through simple experimentation, unconscious attitudes can arrive in consciousness, where they are examined, understood and changed.

This method fosters curiosity and self-awareness, and allows the wisdom of the body to guide the natural drive towards movement and integration of trauma and attachment issues. With the guidance of your therapist, you can learn skills to help you regulate hyper-arousal and numbing, and process thoughts, emotions, and body-based experiences related to trauma in a mindful, contained manner.

If you would like to learn more about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and discover healing through your body, please call 971-240-8965 or email me to schedule an appointment.

Dealing with Negative Body Image

In my work with clients, I often say negative body image is the first to come and the last to leave in the treatment of food and body issues.  And that is a pretty consistent truth for the many recovery journeys I have witnessed over the years.  My clients have taught me the meaning about body image, regardless of whether they have a full blown eating disorder or not. 

Everyone has (at least) a bad body image day.  No one is immune to body image struggles in our culture.

Depending on where you fall, if at all, on the disordered eating spectrum, dealing with harsh, intrusive, negative thoughts and compulsions regarding your body is a common part of dealing with disordered eating.  You may recognize all too well some of these recurring negative thoughts used to bully and shame yourself.  So many try to manage these thoughts and feelings by stuffing them and putting on their "I'm fine" or "It's all good" masks of virtue, hiding the truth that they are at war with their body.  Many try to manage the pain of being in their skin and their body shame by:

  • Over-exercising

  • Restricting eating

  • Dieting

  • Mindless, emotional eating

  • Comparing

  • Competing

  • Shaming

And this can lead to a dark journey into the world of eating disorders and disordered eating.  Yet, many hover in this place of emotional ickiness where they cannot shake the uneasiness of living in their skin and make genuine, though harmful, attempts to get relief.  For many of you, this battle is really not about your body.  Often times, when we move away from the laser focus obsessions on what needs to change in our body and pull back the blinders, we will recognize that something else is going on in you life.

Instead of defaulting to negative food and body obsessions, I work with my clients on how to acknowledge what they are really feeling and what they are really thinking in that moment.  Then we work on respecting those thoughts and feelings in the moment.  I also emphasize the truth in how my clients feel.  What they feel is always real, but rarely is it ever fact.  Finally, we focus on how to respond differently when body hatred arises. Instead of stuffing, minimizing, or denying - which can only fuel the negative thoughts and coping tools - I work with my clients on accessing new tools and strategies when the dreaded body image surfaces.

When there is too much focus on feeling better in your body and not looking at the connection with bad body image to other factors - physical, emotional, social, and spiritual - then I think we are limiting the potential of experiencing true healing.  It is okay not to love your body all the time, but it is imperative to focus on respecting your body and being grateful for your body, even when you do not like it.  You can actually dislike your body while also showing your body respect and gratitude.  Eventually, respect and gratitude will win if you hang in there.

Consider this strategy in your relationship with your body.  With heavy doses of respect and gratitude, in addition to responding differently to your bad body image days, the feeling of your body may never being enough may dissipate, and eventual truce with your body may be declared.  And if one of those days surfaces again, the hope is you do not shame yourself for backsliding in your recovery, but see your body image difficulties as a hint to investigate further.  All the while administering generous doses of respect and gratitude.


Practicing Self-Compassion

So often I hear clients say, "I would never talk to a friend like I take to myself," maybe that is where the term you are your own worst critic comes from?  So badgering yourself all day is motivation, or so we are taught.  What if there is another way.  What if we were compassionate towards ourselves as opposed to critical.  When we are compassionate to loved ones, or even strangers, it seems to be uplifting and help to them, and yet we fail to see how this can be helpful for us!

We go about our day on auto pilot, which is similar to how our thoughts work.  We call this automatic critical thoughts because we think without noticing.  Most of the time we are not even fully aware how critical we are of ourselves.  Step back and think about your own inner dialogue, maybe even write some thoughts down.  Think about how many times you have an automatic thought like, "I should have... or I am so lazy, I can't get anything done."  Would you say that to a friend?  Most likely that's not very helpful or encouraging.  It's a good reminder to think about how your automatic self critical thoughts impact you on a day to day.  

When you can't seem to understand why you are feeling down or angry, take an inventory of your critical thoughts.  What you might notice is how critical thought impact your mood.  Practicing self-compassion is not something you can change overnight.  It takes practice and persistence, but once you are able to implement it you will be amazed at how much more effective you can be. 

What Truly Makes Us Happy?

In his TED talk, psychiatrist Robert Waldinger describes the results of a study he directs at Harvard where they have tracked over 700 men for 75 years to find out what actually makes us happy.  Not surprisingly, what they found is that good relationships keep us happier and healthier. People who are more socially connected, they have found, are happier, physically healthier, and live longer.  People who are more isolated than they want to be find that they are less happy and their health declines earlier.  Also, Waldinger says, it's not just the number of the relationships, but the quality of the relationships that matter.  He reminds us that while we would like a quick fix for happiness, relationships can be messy and take work, but the work can make for a rewarding life.  


Why Counseling?

There are many reasons that people seek therapy.  Perhaps you are feeling stuck in unhealthy patterns, struggling with depression, anxiety or relational issues.  Perhaps your relationship with food has affected you health, relationships, and joy.  You may find yourself feeling confused, hopeless, or overwhelmed.  All of these are just a few reasons that people seek counseling.  Counseling provides a safe, confidential place to explore what is happening in your life, more towards resolution and seek healing.  

Counseling is also an investment, and I am not just talking about finances; it is also an investment in time and energy.  It is worth considering, and even asking yourself these two question:  What is healing and wholeness worth to me?  And, what could it look like to become more whole, authentic, or experience more freedom in your life?  However, if you find these to be difficult areas for you to explore then myself or your therapist can help you uncover your values and beliefs related to the process and hope of healing in your life.  

Selecting the right therapist is also an important factor to consider, and research has shown that the client-therapist fit is one of the factors that determines success in therapy.  I encourage you to find a therapist who not only feels like the right fit for you, but is also someone who has the skills and expertise to help you work through the struggles bringing you into therapy.  I have included the following questions below just to serve as a guide to help you begin the process of finding a therapist:

What is your approach to therapy?  In other words, how do you believe that health and healing happen in counseling?

If the therapist states that they think that they can “fix” you, it is most likely not going to be the best fit.  The point of therapy is to help you become and discover the strong, amazing person you are, not to discover how incredible the therapist is!  This is not to say that your therapist won’t use helpful tools and interventions to facilitate healing, but rather that you play an active and integral part in the healing process.

How much do you charge and how long are the sessions?

A therapist should be able to tell you how long the session is (typically 45-50 minutes) and their current rate.  You can also ask if they offer any low fee spots as many therapists offer these on a limited basis.  

Do you accept insurance?

Make sure to find out what, if any insurance providers your therapists works with.  In addition, you should also contact your insurance company to verify your coverage, copays, and exclusions.

What tools or techniques do you use?  What should I expect generally during a counseling session?

A therapist will be able to give you a general picture of the tools they use and the theories that they work from.  Counseling is a fluid process which means that often sessions look different from week to week, but regardless you should be able to get an idea of what is happening in sessions.  You also always have the option of telling the therapist what tools don’t work for you, or what anxieties you may have around certain techniques.  

I encourage you to take a look around my site and contact me if you have any questions or would like to schedule an initial appointment.