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PTSD and trauma have historically been treated using talk therapy alone. But things are changing with the recognition of the role of the body in processing experiences.
For many years therapists have worked with people who have experienced trauma using insight and more cognitive approaches. The theory has been that we can learn to address trauma by developing insight, changing our beliefs, or developing tools to manage the symptoms. This has been known as top-down processing, or using the pre-frontal cortex or the cognitive part of the brain to address trauma and PTSD.
Trauma researchers and many practitioners are now recognizing the importance of bottom-up processing to address trauma and PTSD. Basically, this means helping clients address trauma by working with the body as well as the brain in recognizing the impact of trauma and resolving it.
We now know that when something traumatic happens, three parts of the brain process the trauma: the pre-frontal or cognitive processing area, the mid-brain or emotional processing area, and the limbic or the sensorimotor processing area.
Although the 3 parts work together, when people are traumatized, both the emotional and the sensorimotor or the body can hijack people into reliving the trauma when the real danger has long past. For example, people may live in constant fear or are startled easily. Or, they may feel dead inside and feel like they live in a fog. They may not be consciously thinking about the traumatic events, but their bodies and emotions are automatically reliving them day-by-day.
Sensorimotor psychotherapy was developed by Pat Ogden in recognition of the importance of the body’s patterns of automatic actions that can develop after trauma. By teaching clients to become aware of what their bodies are doing: the sensations, the movements, the impulses, and the postures that are expressing the internal experience of trauma in the present moment, and how these relate to their feelings and their beliefs, people can eventually learn to change that experience and resolve the trauma.
Using sensorimotor psychotherapy can be really helpful in resolving PTSD and trauma. I would welcome the opportunity to work with you regarding your experiences.