Experiencing traumatic events can cause impairments in physical and biological reactions that lead to psychological symptoms. The majority of mainstream treatment approaches for trauma do not integrate somatic therapy. “Even so, there is a growing recognition of the importance of working somatically in the treatment of traumatic stress,” said Judith I. Langmuir, of the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, Ontario and lead author of a recent study. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) is a technique that addresses the emotional and sensorimotor processing, both of which affect post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSD). Langmuir added, “This repetitive cycle of interaction between mind and body has the effect of keeping the past trauma alive because once the procedural memory is activated, it feels as though the trauma is being re-experienced in the present moment.” This state of constantly reliving the trauma affects every area of an individual’s life. “SP is an attachment-informed, somatic, and sensory-focused therapy for trauma survivors and may be especially helpful for clients with a history of chronic childhood traumatization who have experienced a disruption of their attachment to their caregiver, resulting in both a limited ability to modulate their own arousal and a diminished capacity for social engagement.”
Langmuir and her colleagues followed 10 women who participated in 20 group sessions of SP. The women were taught mindfulness skills and gained somatic awareness to decrease traumatic symptoms. The researchers evaluated the women at baseline, during and after treatment and found that all of the women became considerably more aware of their somatic responses, achieved a state of calmness and found relief from trauma symptoms. “This study provides preliminary evidence that, drawing on the principles of SP, a somatically-informed group intervention for trauma survivors may be effective in increasing somatic awareness and reducing trauma-related symptoms,” said Langmuir. “This study suggests that a group intervention based on the principles of SP may be effective for survivors of interpersonal trauma.”
Langmuir, J. I., Kirsh, S. G., & Classen, C. C. (2011, September 19). A Pilot Study of Body-Oriented Group Psychotherapy: Adapting Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for the Group Treatment of Trauma. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025588
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