What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy? This is a therapy which connects traditional psychotherapy with somatic (body) oriented therapies to investigate the ways in which sensory communication from our body about our environment informs and impacts our functioning. This therapy focuses on mind-body-spirit holism.
Our every moment, our past moments, and our predictions about future moments are wonderfully organized by our nervous system. Cognition (thoughts and thinking styles), Affect (emotions/feelings), Behaviour (conscious and non-conscious), and the Body (sensations and impulses) culminate and reciprocate as four core organizers of our moment to moment lived experience.
Traumatic events, early poor attachment to primary caregivers, and our life experiences leave impressions within our bodies which inform the way we carry ourselves; the way we move into relationship with others; and, the manner in which our nervous system ‘lights up’ to inform of us of (real or perceived) threat, our core-beliefs about ourselves, the world around us, and our place in it. Engaging the body and utilizing the body’s intelligence is critical in reshaping our behaviour, thoughts, and emotions.
SP is primarily a therapy for trauma, but a client does not have to have a trauma to benefit from engaging the body and the body’s intelligence in treatment. In fact, somatic therapy benefits client's looking t explore, unearth, understand, heal, and change the organization of their situations, symptoms, relationships, and lives.
From the get-go of life, our nervous system organizes through environmental and sensory stimuli to create messages of safety, security, and approach or avoidance responding. As we grow, hopefully, we became better able to integrate these messages and regulate our responding appropriately through positive attachment and improving development of the brain.
During moments when we are overwhelmed as a consequence of a trauma or maladaptive attachment, our ability to integrate what is happening is diminished affecting our ability to sense an event as being over or in the past, affecting intra- and interpersonal relating, and organizing our response to stressors and triggers in unhelpful ways. These experiences settle into the body, mind, and relationships, sometimes in ways that change our present day experience, self-concept, responding and functioning.
SP therapy focuses on and integrates the role of the body - the nervous system - so that physiological, behavioural, emotional and mental functioning improves and returns to adaptive states. SP therapy does this in a safe environment and attuned relationship between therapist and client.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy works top-down (most recently developed part of the brain), then bottom-up (older part of the brain) and top down, again (integrating the wisdom and knowledge of the body and the beliefs it has held and been prepared for). Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is not just talk.
Mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MCBT) work with and improves the foundation to therapy - mindfulness. This means cultivating a mindful presence practice of noticing, without judgment the changes in emotions, the body, thoughts, and behaviour to apply this awareness to 'top-down' processes, such as attending to difficult thinking and barriers involved in goal setting and in organizing objective, cost, need, and appropriate language in assertive and effective communication development.
The similarities between SP and MCBT are that they begin with an end in mind and use higher-order processing to begin to explain a problem and provide a narrative. They both focus on four core organizers of experience; however, SP focuses more on the role of the body and emotion in behaviour and beliefs, whereas MCBT tends toward directed or suggested changes in thoughts and behaviour to effect changes in emotion and somatic (body) symptoms.