The body in therapy: experiences of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Dinas, Sharonjit (2012) The body in therapy: experiences of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. DClinPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Background: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is an approach for working with people who have experienced trauma (e.g. post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) that is based on contemporary philosophies of embodiment and the expanse of neurobiological evidence for the effect of psychological trauma on the physical body. Thus, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy places central importance on working with the body in therapy.

Method: This study explored the experiences of 10 therapists and 2 clients who have had Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and in particular, what it was like to use the body in therapy. Semi-structured interviews were used in order to gain detailed information regarding how the using the body in therapy is experienced.

Results: An inductive thematic analysis of interview transcripts identified four main themes: 1) accessing the truth through the body, 2) dilemmas of mind and body, 3) the elusiveness of words, and 4) change occurs through and within the body. 'Accessing the truth through the body' had three further subthemes: 'access', 'truth', and 'depth'. In this theme, participants described Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as being able to access the core of a problem through its use of working with the body ('access'), and that in doing so it reaches the truth of a problem or previous traumatic experience ('truth'). In order to reach and access the truth, participants described the work as having great 'depth'. 'Dilemmas of mind and body' had two further subthemes: 'the interfering mind' and ' the telling body'. In this theme, participants described the mind and body in very different ways, suggesting a dualism of mind and body. Participants described how 'the interfering mind' can distract from dealing with the real and genuine issue (accessed through the body), and that 'the telling body' was a source of genuine and important knowledge regarding a traumatic experience. The 'elusiveness of words' referred to how the participants found it difficult to describe their experiences in words, alluding to the elusiveness of words to describe the process of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. Participants considered and discussed progress and change in Sensorimotor Psychotherapy as occurring through and within the body ('change occurs through and within the body').

Discussion: In conclusion, the participants in this study felt that by working primarily with the body, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is able to deeply access the direct core of traumatic experience, and that parts of this process are difficult to describe in words. Furthermore, a dualism of mind and body was implicated by the participants, and change was considered to occur through and within the body. Other therapies for PTSD could consider including more focus on the body, and also consider acknowledging perceived dilemmas between the mind and body. The limitations of this study include possible sampling bias, and the verbal interview technique being unable to explore the nuanced bodily experience of the therapy. Future research should expand the sample to include those who had neutral or negative experiences of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and explore methods that can capture the bodily experience of the therapy considering the difficulty of the 'elusiveness of words'.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DClinPsy)
Supervisors: Sabin-Farrell, R.
das Nair, R.
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC 321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > Institute of Work, Health and Organisations
Item ID: 12794
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 13 Aug 2013 12:25
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 08:23

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