Sensorimotor Psychotherapy uses psychoeducation to educate the client about trauma and the physical effects it has had on the body and brain and on how we think, feel and behave. Understanding ourselves brings healing and a sense of peace.
A look at our bodies gives a snapshot of all that has happened to us in life. Body language, posture, facial expressions and the way the body feels can all be indicative of the way our thoughts and behaviours have adapted to our world in the past. Those adaptations stay with us until healing takes place.
For example, a child who is living in an abusive home with parents who are often angry may adapt the body posture of hunched shoulders and a downcast gaze and these will become automatic ‘procedurally learned’ behaviours. Each time the parents start to show anger, this body posture will be adopted. This will help the child to deflect the anger of the parents as the child is giving off an implicit message of submission. The child may have learnt that to hold their head up or to walk confidently may invoke the wrath of their angry parents.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy seeks to interupt these automatic behavioural patterns by ‘updating the software’ of our beliefs about ourselves. This interrupts the set patterns of behaviour and develops new ones. It helps us to change our reactions to situations.
Children from dysfunctional homes will not have been adequately cared for emotionally and this will often result in them being unable to manage their emotions well into adulthood.
The mental space in which a person can function effectively is known as the window of tolerance. In a person from an abusive home, this window of tolerance will be narrow and this means that the person is often overwhelmed or triggered by their feelings or events in the environment and they will go into hyperarousal (fight or flight) or hypoarousal (freeze or submit) easily. They may often manage their emotional state with addictions.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy teaches many ‘grounding techniques’ which help the body and brain to be in the here and now rather than in a ‘feeling flashback’ that are our procedurally learned behaviours.
These are techniques such as the 4-7-8 breathing technique,
and the progressive muscle relaxation technique,
These exercises help to widen the window of tolerance and help the client to feel safer in their body.
The safer the client feels the more they can explore and process their suppressed emotions.