The Yellow Umbrella


2018 Eastwood Road (Eastwood Executive Suites)
Wilmington, NC 28403


Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: The Body As A Portal to Healing

Type of Therapy:

Somatic/Body Based


Have you ever wondered why some people don’t seem to get better in talk therapy? Talk therapy is based on insight. Unfortunately, our insightful brain shuts down when we are exposed to trauma, and words and insight fail us.

Stress and trauma are stored in primitive parts of the brain that don’t have language. Thus, it is necessary to access trauma non-verbally. In SMPT, we focus on using the body as an entrance point into healing trauma. We spend less time “talking” about what is broken and more time helping the patient experience how they survived. This is a competence based model, and we focus on the strengths and resources that enabled the patient to cope.

When a traumatized person first comes to therapy, they have usually been over-powered by a life event that caused them to freeze in terror. As a result, they learned to cope with any perceived threat by freezing (e.g. depression) or collapsing (e.g. dissociation). The goal of SMTP is to help the patient come out of the freeze mode and recover feelings of competence that were lost during the trauma.

SMPT is about helping people recover a sense of triumph after a trauma by teaching them to be aware of the body, to experiment with new behaviors or body movements, and to take care of body needs. The role of the therapist is to facilitate mindful attunement, self-awareness, and self-regulation. This treatment program restores a somatic sense of self. Being able to live in the present in a joyful way is the by-product of this deep somatic work.

Example of Treatment:

A young woman survived an automobile accident in which her car went over a cliff. The SMPT therapist asks the patient to tell the story of the accident; the therapist’s job is to help the patient track body sensations, body movements, and any action tendencies that emerge as the story is told.

The therapist notices that both the patient’s right hand and left foot begin to twitch as she describes the car going over the cliff. The therapist encourages the patient to stay focused on the sensations in her extremities. The patient then notices an urge to lift the front of her foot, and she starts making a pushing movement with her hand. She has the insight that she was trying to push the brake pedal and reach for her i-phone when the car went over the cliff—adaptive actions she had been unable to complete.

When the patient was able to complete fully the movements that were blocked when she froze, she experienced triumph and competence. By working with her sensations and action tendencies, the patient was able to discover new ways of orienting and moving through the world other than freeze and collapse.

Facts & Figures:

World renowned trauma researcher Bessel van der Kolk conducted neuropsychological MRI studies showing that the frontal lobe and higher brain centers shut down during trauma. Van der Kolk also found that focus on sensation re-connects lower and higher brain centers so that trauma can process.

SMPT Successfully Treats:

Physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, auto accidents, combat, surgery, etc. SMPT is ideal for anyone who has had a traumatic experience of any kind.

If you are interested in learning more click here.

If you would like to see this therapy explained by it’s founder, Pat Ogden, on You-Tube: watch this video.

"You don’t have to crawl a hundred miles through the desert on your hands and knees. You just have to let the soft animal that is your body love what it loves."

--Mary Oliver