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Sensorimotor Psychotherapy

Imagine two scenarios:

In the first, your therapist uses what you know is a scientifically proven, evidenced based therapy approach but yet, you don't quite connect with her. She's nice and you like her but you just feel like she doesn't quite get you.

Now the second: Your therapist uses a type of therapy that isn't yet labeled evidenced based, but you feel like she totally gets you.

Now, guess in which scenario you will have the best therapy results.

If you guessed the second one, you're right! As I used to tell my students, "This is so important, it bears repeating: The type of therapy being used with a client takes a back seat to the importance of the quality of the therapeutic relationship!" Not sure you believe me? Read and/or scan the reference section of this article and see for yourself.

Now, hear me when I say: "I am not saying evidenced based (EB) doesn't matter"! What I am saying is:

EB therapy approach used by your therapist
+
A strong therapeutic relationship with your therapist
=
The best therapy results for you
Non-EB therapy approach used by your therapist
+
A strong therapeutic relationship with your therapist
=
Still the best therapy results for you
EB therapy approach used by your therapist 
+
Weak or shaky therapeutic relationship with your therapist 
=
Not the best therapy results for you

Literally decades of research tell us this is so: that the best predictor of a good therapy outcome is indeed the quality of the relationship you have with your therapist!

Figuring out the evidence based part is relatively easy right? You can do a Google search about evidenced based practices and do the research yourself. But what if a therapist's method is not yet labeled as evidenced based, like Sensorimotor Psychotherapy? And what about choosing a therapist with whom you know you'll connect? It starts getting a little more complicated!

Choosing a Therapy and a Therapist:

When it comes to considering types of therapy, definitely do your homework and see what is and isn't considered an evidenced based approach. But I submit to you: don't discard an approach just because it lacks the evidenced based stamp of approval. Case in point: in the not too distant past, approaches like yoga, mindfulness, meditation and acupuncture were considered "out there" approaches to our health and healing. Now, thanks to neurobiological research, we know differently and, not only are those approaches considered mainstream, you can't even turn around these days without hearing about their benefits (to which I say )! So don't dismiss an approach just because it's not labeled as evidence based! That said, how do you discern the potentially good from the potentially bad? Look at what the research is saying about your presenting problem and apply the "reasonableness standard."

Let's take Anxiety or Trauma as examples. When you're learning about either of them you will likely come across words like: limbic system, arousal dysregulation, somatic (i.e., body) symptoms, etc. If the therapy you're considering speaks to using brain and body based techniques to treat those types of symptoms, then it meets the reasonableness standard and is likely worth pursuing. On the other hand, if the therapy speaks to doing a headstand while eating bee honey and sniffing roses as techniques for treating those symptoms, then it does not meet the reasonableness standard and you should likely move on.

What about choosing a specific therapist? Your gut feeling can really help here. After looking at a variety of clinicians, narrow your list down to 2 or 3 and then call each one to ask about their treatment practices and if they offer a brief, face to face consultation that is free of charge. If they don't, it doesn't mean they're not good but I submit to you that their expectation may be unreasonable. After all, would they personally make a significant investment without first getting a feel for it? I think not. And I think the same should go for the investment you're going to make in yourself, especially with the person to whom you're going for help with your problem! To learn more about selecting a therapist, see my vlog about "Choosing a Therapist? Consider This!" (coming soon).

And, in the meantime, I invite you to learn more about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a treatment model currently being researched as an evidenced based approach to treating trauma and adult attachment problems. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, like EMDR, is a "bottom up" approach that highly prioritizes the therapeutic relationship, relies heavily on mindfulness, and strongly incorporates content from the "body channel."

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