Beyond Technique: the Art of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
Pat Ogden, PhD
Janina Fisher, PhD

Beyond technique and intervention, it is the foundational philosophical and spiritual principles underlying the practice of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy that determine the quality of the therapeutic relationship and create a compassionate atmosphere that evokes the client’s healing potential.


This presentation will illustrate how these principles guide clinical technique and facilitate the therapeutic process. The practice of Embedded Relational Mindfulness naturally awakens the inherent wisdom of the body, evokes a felt sense of connection to the therapist, and deepens client awareness of moment-to-moment experience.  Embedded relational mindfulness, along with the other principles, helps therapists move beyond technique to use Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as an art, inducing a state of consciousness conducive to growth and connection for both client and therapist. 

When the Past Intrudes on the Present: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for Couples
Pat Ogden, PhD
Kekuni Minton, PhD

Our muscular and nervous systems are in constant flux. We automatically relax or tighten our muscles, change our breathing, pull away or lean forward, increase or decrease ANS arousal, make eye contact or avert our gaze in response to internal and external changes.   We rarely think about or even become aware of these unintended adjustments but nonetheless, they have a powerful influence on ourselves and on our relationships. 

The habitual non-verbal adjustments that reflect the legacy of trauma and attachment failure speak to an internal sense of danger or distress. For relationships in trouble, these powerful signals, unconsciously emitted, perceived and reacted to by the other, are often at the root of the difficulty.  Intimacy and connection require that each person feels physically and psychologically secure with their partner, but the non-verbal communication patterns adaptive in the past typically presage a loss of relational closeness and safety in the present. 

This keynote will elucidate how trauma and attachment failures lead to patterns of nonverbal communication and impede the ability to form and sustain fulfilling relationships. The implicit body-to-body conversation between two people will be shown to be a critical factor in both understanding and resolving relationship challenges. The somatic dialogue—the wordless story told through the exchange of non-conscious bodily signals—will be highlighted, and embedded relational mindfulness will be illustrated to help clients become aware of their own somatic narratives and the non-verbal dialogue between them.  

Interventions from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy that address relational impasses and deepen transformational moments will be demonstrated through videotaped excerpts of consultation sessions with couples. Participants will learn new ways to view relationship challenges, develop body based self-regulation and communication skills, create new interpersonal competencies and foster relational resilience. 

Raphaël Gazon, clinical psychologist,

Shame is an overwhelming affect associated with intense autonomic nervous system activation, inability to think clearly, incapacity to behave voluntarily and impulse to hide or flee. It functions as a defensive strategy against interpersonal or social danger. In many ways, the very particular body posture and autonomic patterns of shame are fairly similar to what we observe in trauma. In particular, the issue of shame and self-blame is central to chronic and developmental trauma.  

In this presentation, Raphaël Gazon will clarify the concept of shame and review how we can use of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy interventions to work directly with the manifestations of shame in movement, posture, and gesture of the body, as well as in a dysregulated nervous system.  

With an emphasis on the relational nature of shame, special attention will be given to the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Typically, when we try to get in touch with someone who experiences shame, it activates more shame. Therefore, when a therapist tries to get a client out of the shame, it often forces the client back into the shame.  

In this presentation, we’ll review how therapists can create a relational context that maximizes the possibility of getting out the relational vicious circle of shame.  

SP and EMDR: Working Together
Rochelle Sharpe Lohrasbe, PhD

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) and EMDR Therapy share common ground as information processing models: One approaching client concerns from the bottom up and the other from the top down. This keynote will introduce and review several suggestions for each approach to inform and enhance the other in knowledge and structure to psychotherapy sessions, particularly for trauma sessions. Practical suggestions from SP are provided to enhance EMDR Therapy beyond the mere inclusion of somatic awareness throughout the 8 Phase approach. In turn, SP may be bolstered by incorporating a few features of EMDR Therapy. 

Polyvagal Theory, Therapeutic Presence, and the Relational Space Between Us 
Tony Buckley

This prsentation will deepen understanding of somatic boundaries and application of polyvagal theory within the therapeutic relationship.  In relation to the autonomic nervous system polyvagal theory outlines, 3 hierarchical subsystems, which evolved to respond adaptively to environmental (including relational) features of safety, danger and life threat (Porges, 2011).  This highlights how both client and therapist react non-consciously to a variety of implicit relational or environmental threat cues which can stimulate automatic behavioural responses through neuroception.  The presentation workshop will invite some further exploration of concepts such as self /interactive, attunement, co- regulation and therapeutic presence as these relate to safetyboth within and outside of the therapeutic relationship.  

Participants will also learn about peripersonal neurons (Graziano, 2018), which protectively serve by monitoring the approach of objects or people in proximity to the awareness spaces surrounding the body. This gives a more detailed and therefore more sensitively nuanced sense of somatic boundaries. Practitioners can sample small interoceptive awareness activities and vagal stimulation self-regulation exercises which are specifically chosen to enhance social engagement and relational safety in treatment. There will be aditional focus on the interactive barriers occuring for both, which contribute to ruptures and possible enactments within the therapeutic field.  The overall focus will be on developing skills, knowledge and resources to intervene more safely, helping clients further regulate window of tolerance in dual awareness by utilising a range of short exercises which specifically  stimulate the vagus nerve.  

Socio-Cultural Dialogues in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
Round Table Discussion Moderated by SPI's Anti-Racism Think-Tank

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (like most psychotherapy methods) was designed as an individualistic approach by (and thus inadvertently for) people in power in the Westernized world. This approach has not been systematically adapted to work with marginalized populations, such as immigrants, ethnic/racially oppressed groups, those with disabilities, the elderly, or the LGBTQ community. The dominance of mainstream views throughout the history of psychological research and practice results in a definition of what is normative, which excludes a diverse understanding of psychological narratives of marginalized people. Although the inclusion of these voices is a frequent topic of exploration, the values of mainstream psychology and its impact on marginalized populations is hardly recognized. Thus, its influence remains relatively unexamined both clinically and, in the field, at large.  


The purpose of this round table is to prompt a dialogue about how the current conceptualizations of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy are expanding and becoming more inclusive in addressing the socio-political challenges of working wiht people within different contexts, identities and social locations. We hope to inspire therapists to think critically and to develop a deeper sensitivity to these issues as well as a commitment to ongoing Sensorimotor Psychotherapy skill development with a wider sociocultural and anti-oppression lens.    

Conference Workshops

Saturday, October 10th 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Trauma and Addictions: An Integrated Somatic Approach

Kelley L. Callahan, PhD

The comorbidity of addiction-related disorders within traumatized populations is well documented. However, treatment models tend to focus exclusively on treating trauma or addiction as if they are separate rather than interrelated issues. This workshop will explore how unaddressed substance use interferes with effective trauma treatment and how untreated trauma sets up clients seeking treatment for addictions for a painful and destructive cycle of relapse and self-destructive behaviors. We will explore conceptualizing addiction disorders as well as trauma-related symptoms within the structural dissociation framework and the subsequent implications for treatment as highlighted by Janina Fisher’s integrative work. Based on an understanding that clients’ behaviors, and often parts of self, are organized around the drive for survival, the management of implicit memory, and painful emotional dysregulation, we will apply the basic SP roadmap about regulation and phase one treatment to working in an integrated way with all of the parts of the client.

Saturday, October 10th 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Implementing Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as a Group Therapy in the Treatment of Complex Trauma

Nuri Gene-Cos & Rita Hassan Parker

The workshop would describe the 14-week sensorimotor group psychotherapy treatment offered at the Maudsley Trauma and Dissociation Service as part of a phase 1 stabilisation treatment for adults presenting with complex PTSD, dissociative disorders, and personality disorders. Each sensorimotor psychotherapy group session incorporates psycho-education about trauma, mindfulness and concentration practice, development of somatic resources for regulating autonomic arousal, and skills rehearsal within a group therapy context. It was designed to introduce the skills in a sequential and titrated format, ensuring that clients do not become dysregulated in the process of stabilization, thus unable to integrate new learning, and that each skill builds upon the acquisition of the previous one. Each session addresses a different set of symptoms sequenced in order of importance from a trauma-treatment perspective, including: autonomic arousal, implicit memory, basic techniques for regulating arousal, directing focused attention, boundaries and skills practice.


The workshop will detail the protocol used, how it is implemented in practice and the clinical considerations and adaptations required, in addition to the outcomes thus far as outlined in the current research literature (Gene-Cos, et al. , 2016), as well as future directions.

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