Krystal Ying, LMFT, LPCC
How Can I Heal from Sexual Trauma with Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?
Updated: 4 days ago
Learn about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a mind-body therapeutic approach to healing from trauma
What is a typical session like using this somatic therapy?
Cultivate and experience a different way of relating to, addressing, processing, and healing from sexual trauma
Get to the root of unresolved issues and help your body move forward
Find out if Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is right for you, and how it can help resolve other distressing events
Healing and recovering from sexual violence come in many ways. You may have already found and developed unique methods - whether through an unconscious process or with directed intention - yet, sometimes this is not enough.
Your body feels stuck, like it is reliving the past, except everyday life is inundated with constant triggers due to unresolved trauma. Simply put, the traumatized body and brain exist in survival mode, unable to "move on." Of course the body and brain does not just "move on" - it is fiercely protective after a devastating, life-changing event or events.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy is a mind-body approach that helps the body heal on a deeper level - working with the nervous system and brain to metabolize the trauma energy stored in the body.
Rather than solely talking about the trauma (which uses cognition), this somatic approach incorporates mindful attention to one's internal and physical experiences (which accesses the deeper regions of the brain where trauma is stored) to help a client resolve stuck trauma.
What is a typical session using Sensorimotor Psychotherapy like?
This, of course, ranges widely based on where a client is at in treatment, their ability to stay connected to the present moment, resources available, the therapeutic relationship.
Below, I share how a Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
session might look like.
Safety & Stabilization: Building resources and self-regulation skills to tolerate staying in the body more, reduce dissociation, and soothe the nervous system. We'll experiment with various body postures, movement, mind/cognitive, and breathing techniques to see what works for your unique nervous system. Sensorimotor Psychotherapy will deepen your embodiment of a resource; thus making it more effective, powerful, and long-lasting.
For example, I might ask you to check out what you notice when you slowly lengthen your spine or place your hand on your heart. I would then guide you to gain awareness of your internal experience from a resourced place - positive sensations, images, feelings, thoughts - using directed mindfulness.
We might also experiment with boundaries - survivors of sexual violence had their boundaries violated in the most intrusive way; the opportunity to set verbal and physical boundaries with a therapist could be understandably scary, yet incredibly healing.
Processing: Studying trauma material in bite-size pieces. A session might include an invitation to process the traumatic memory or event. We will use the narrative to find a window to access the deeper roots of trauma material, i.e. I will track the client (physical movements, facial expressions, mood, affect changes, etc) and help them mindfully attune to their present moment experience. By bringing awareness to and staying with what's happening in the moment, together we can process and integrate trauma.
This might include sequencing - an approach of releasing the body's tension, left over from the nervous system's fight-flight-freeze response. By staying with physical tension and impulses, the body can release, metabolize, and move sensations, energy, and ultimately trauma out of the body. If able to stay with the body, and with my guidance, a client may start shaking, trembling, releasing tears, or feeling internal sensations move. After a build-up, there is usually a sense of relief, lightness, expansiveness, and tension-reduction.
To help the body, if indicated, we also might experiment with an act of triumph - a term describing the body's ability to complete a defensive action that it was previously unable to enact due to the threat (usually life-threatening and immobilizing). This might look like experimenting together to try different postures, movements, or physical actions that the body still wants or needs in order to resolve and release trauma energy. By supporting the body - whether that is pushing your feet into the floor, pushing against the wall, yelling aloud, or grabbing an object - we can help the body complete an act of triumph.
If you've read this far, perhaps you are curious, intrigued, or even interested in trying Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. This mind-body approach is gentle, yet powerful, and is by nature trauma-informed and
Working with the body requires a willingness or openness to tune inward to the body's communications. This approach can help survivors heal from trauma by strengthening resources, addressing traumatic memories in order to process them, and integrating trauma so that the body is no longer living and responding to the past.
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy can not only help people recover from the impact of sexual trauma, but also other traumatic events - such as an auto collision, emotional or physical abuse, relationship trauma (including domestic/intimate partner violence), a sports accident.
I would love to support you in your healing journey if you are ready. I invite you to reach out to me if you are interested or would like to start working towards a more peaceful life.