Working somatically in the treatment of trauma and the process of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
In this commentary, Dr Pat Ogden explains how the unique physiological and somatic reaction of the individual to a traumatic event is central to her way of working with trauma. She proposes that, when faced with trauma, our instinctual animal defence systems of fight, flight, freeze and feign death are automatically engaged. In a healthy individual those reactions are integrated with emotions and the meaning made of the trauma. But for many of our patients – especially those with developmental relational trauma – the traumatic experience remains un-integrated and manifests in the form of embodied post-traumatic stress disorder. With references to neurobiology of trauma, this commentary details how a sensorimotor approach to maladaptive defences leads to integration, by enabling the patient to mindfully experience the symptom with the relational engagement of the therapist, and following the body’s impulse to resolve and heal. Case examples are provided.