How Does Sensorimotor Therapy Help Heal Unresolved Trauma?

Your mind and body are affected by traumatic events. Without knowing, you can hold and bury your mental and physical feelings deep within your mind and body. When this happens, you have unresolved trauma.

What Is Unresolved Trauma?

Unresolved trauma occurs whenever you try to forget or smooth over a past event that caused mental harm. For example, an abused child may want to forget the abuse or convince themself that the abuse “wasn’t that bad.”

However, telling yourself something wasn’t bad can harm you physically or mentally if you haven’t dealt with your pain and worked on understanding how the traumatic event affected your mental and physical wellbeing.

Secure Attachment 

One aspect affected by trauma is your ability to attach to others. Psychoanalyst John Bowlby studies how children attach themselves to others. There are four types of attachment. For now, we will focus on secure attachment.

Secure attachment occurs when children become distressed when a caregiver goes away. Still, they are happy to see them return and can seek physical affection like a hug. These children can process fear or anxiety.

Children who experience abuse or trauma may not develop the ability to form a secure attachment with others.  Instead, they may form harmful habits or experience persistent physical pain.

The Effects of Unresolved Trauma

Unresolved trauma can create anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. However, some events can bring you back to the time you experienced trauma. Your mind releases emotions like anger, guilt, shame, or fear because you are reliving the pain you went through.

An example of a flashback is if you observe a fight. Maybe in your past, you were abused by your parent(s). When you see a person raise their voice and then physically attack another, you remember what happened in your childhood. What emotions do you experience when you think of a traumatic event in your life?

Another manifestation of unresolved trauma is physical expression. Your body holds onto emotional pain. You may not realize your backache, headache, or another body issue is how your body is coping with trauma. To address psychological or physical pain caused by unresolved trauma, you can engage in therapy.

Traditional Therapy

Those with unresolved trauma can dissociate themselves from their body and their mental wellbeing. Traditional therapy addresses cognitive or emotional functioning in a person.

While talk therapy is an effective mode of therapy, it often fails to focus on how the body is reacting to a past traumatic event. The connection between your mind and body is an essential part of your life and wellbeing.

The Mind-Body Connection

You unconsciously act out your feelings. Everyone does. When you talk about an event that made you happy, you may express joy in your face, pull your shoulders back, or sit up straight.

Upsetting or traumatic events evoke physical responses as well. You may draw your shoulders in, slouch, or look down when you talk about an event like abuse. Your body is responding to the event as if the event were occurring in the present. How is this possible?

Body language reflects how you feel, even if you are glossing over an event or trying to put on a happy or brave face. The body is a lie detector and a truth sayer.

Mindful therapies like yoga or meditation ask you to look within yourself and connect your body with your mind. Once you make the connection, you can acknowledge how you feel and find healthy ways to cope.

However, you may need help finding this connection. Utilizing sensorimotor therapy guides you to discover the mind-body connection and find harmony in your life.

Sensorimotor Therapy

Pat Ogden, the creator of sensorimotor therapy, observed how traditional therapy helped clients, but mindful practices like yoga connected a person with their whole being. As a result, she developed sensorimotor therapy because the practice blends talk therapy with the body. The goal of this therapy is to aid you in finding a feeling of safety in your body when you recall a traumatic event.

Perhaps you have difficulty processing your trauma. The mind-body approach of sensorimotor therapy asks you to retell everything leading up to the event, but you stop before the traumatic event occurs. Next, your therapist will ask you how your body feels. Maybe you feel nausea, your hands are clenched, or another physical reaction happens.

When you experienced abuse, you reacted with a flight or fight response. For example, if you were sexually assaulted, you may not have tried to fight your attacker. The wish you had fought off your attacker can become stuck in your body.

Through sensorimotor therapy, you can revisit the event and act out whatever action you wish you did. Sensorimotor therapy releases your body and mind from the pain of unresolved trauma, allowing you to begin the healing process.

After experiencing a traumatic event like abuse, your mind and body are affected. The pain and unresolved trauma can hobble your emotional and physical wellbeing. Persistent body pain may not result from physical ailments but mental anguish. You can seek talk therapy as a remedy, but sometimes you need to take a comprehensive approach to your psychological and physical wellbeing. Sensorimotor therapy combines talk and body therapy. You discuss the physical manifestations of unresolved trauma, and eventually, your unfulfilled response is acted out when you are ready. You learn the impact trauma has on you physically and mentally while distinguishing the past from the present. Havenwood Academy, located in Utah, helps girls who experienced abuse or neglect in a safe, secure environment. We understand the toll of trauma. Our dedicated staff is here to guide your daughter through her pain. Call us for more information about our programs and services at (435) 586-2500.


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.