We learned behavioral observation in our first year of graduate training. Crossed arms indicate defensiveness. Poor eye contact reveals shame or authority issues. Tapping foot? Anxiety! For most of us, that's about as far as it goes.
But according to Pat Ogden, founder of the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute and coauthor of Trauma and the Body: A Sensorimotor Approach to Psychotherapy, therapists are missing out on a wealth of valuable diagnostic and treatment information because of their failure to see what's right in front of them in their consulting rooms every day. Citing research literature neurobiology, developmental psychology, trauma, and psychodynamic therapy, she insists that the body has been left out of the "talking cure," and argues that integrating body-focused interventions into our work provides a more holistic--and effective--approach to the treatment of trauma, attachment, and relational issues.
RH: We all know that our early environment shapes our psychological makeup. How does it influence our physical posture?
OGDEN: It's a similar feedback process. If you grow up in a family that doesn't expect you to be strong, assertive, and powerful, but encourages you to be more quiet and withdrawn, your body will show it. A child growing up in that environment is likely to have a collapsed chest and a body that appears pulled in. In contrast, if you grew up in a family that expects you…