Point Of View

Point Of View

Psyche and Soma: How Our Bodies Reveal Our Inner Experience

By Ryan Howes

September/October 2012

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up in a family that doesn't expect you to be strong, assertive, and powerful, but encourages you to be more quiet and withdrawn, your body will show it.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…

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1 Comment

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 3:50:23 PM | posted by Suzanne Persons, Ph.D., LMHC
As a psychotherapist for 35 yrs, I've seen periodic 'body' therapy articles and approaches emerge and then seem to have limited success in comparison to the cognitive behavioral therapies, insurance reimbursement notwithstanding. It's my experience that the 'body' as a focus brings the therapist to his/her own issues and, if not addressed, s/he returns to 'talk therapy'. The approach/avoid-dance as a profession continues. I'm glad to see the 'body' surface again, however abbreviated the article compared to others in the same issue. I believe we will keep coming back to 'body' therapies because we know that the body is critical in the body, mind, spirit triad. Next, the spirit. How do we incorporate this entity into the session in everyday talk therapy?