The mind and the body are indelibly interconnected. Integrated Somatic Psychotherapy (ISPT) is a unique form of Body Centered Psychotherapy in Durango, CO which we have developed to people that have suffered from trauma to reintegrate the connection between the mind and the body. Body Oriented Psychotherapy is a term that is widely used in counseling today and it can take many forms along one’s path to healing. Generally speaking, it means exploring the connection between the mind and body to access deeper levels of our own consciousness and our connection to the world around us. Body Centered Counseling “takes into account the complexity of the intersections of and interactions between the body and the mind, with the common underlying assumption being that a functional unity exists between mind and body.” ~ The United States Association of Body Psychotherapy.
In my experience as a professional counselor with a bodywork specialty in massage, I have worked with a wide variety of clients that have experienced difficulty with their desire and / or ability to connect with others in their lives on a very basic, yet crucial, physical level. Over time, some very clear commonalities began to present themselves in clients that had suffered traumatic events in their lives. This lead me to develop an innovative methodology called Integrated Somatic Psychotherapy (ISPT), an specialized form of body centered psychotherapy, designed to help individuals that have suffered trauma as they work to re-integrate touch, re-introduce interpersonal intimacy and / or re-discover their connection to their own bodies. It can also help people that are struggling with depression, anxiety, and PTSD along their journey of healing.
As humans, we experience life on many different levels, including cognitive, emotional, social and physical levels. At the same time, traditional counseling and bodywork methods may only typically address one aspect of the human experience at a time, neglecting the integrated nature of our natural responses to the world around us. For many that suffer traumas such as sexual assault, abuse, or even traumatic accidents, the conditions in their lives as well as social and environmental conditioning will hold them back from taking the difficult and, often, scary steps necessary to truly heal. When we have not healed completely, both physically and mentally, that suffering can manifest our lives in a variety of ways. Often, a client won’t even equate these symptoms to the trauma or event itself, rather thinking that they are separate and independent reactions to the world around us.
Many people have difficulty connecting to others after experiencing a trauma along a wide spectrum and experience similar yet, often vastly different, manifestations that have a visceral effect on their personal relationships and their ability to connect with others. Some people may feel anxious or irritated when they experience physical touch, some may have difficulty enjoying physical intimacy with a partner, and some will even experience physical symptoms or pain when they become anxious or depressed. All of these can be maladapted symptoms of how we deal with a traumatic event in our lives.
Integrated Somatic Psychotherapy is an unique approach to the science and the art of healing and personal growth which methodically treats the causes of disconnection, not just the symptoms. A fundamental principle of this program is the understanding that every person, every trauma and every approach to healing will vary significantly. However, just as there are commonalities among symptoms, there are commonalities in the treatment approach which are customized to meet the client wherever they are at along the spectrum.
In its most basic form, there are 3 essential steps to the ISPT healing process. Throughout the Integrated Body Psychotherapy program, a client will expect to learn skills to effectively deal with trauma, how to recognize the signals our body’s are giving us, and how to self-soothe and self-regulate when we experience discomfort and / or disconnection from those around us. It also gives the client the power to maintain complete control over physical interactions in their lives, both internally and externally, and to reconnect them to the relationships that can also suffer as a result of trauma.
We start by developing some very basic, but essential skills which allow a client to prepare for the work ahead as we addresses the trauma head on. Here we develop coping skills that help one to not only deal with day to day stressors, but also to cope with the issues that may arise as we confront the trauma, such as flashbacks, etc. I utilize a variety of different modalities for this stage including relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, as well as other traditional psychotherapy skills such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) skills such as distress tolerance and emotional regulation.
Once we have the coping mechanisms in place, we will then begin to build body awareness skills utilizing a variety of Mindful Awareness and Body Oriented Therapy techniques. At this stage, we begin to learn to identify the body’s response to emotional triggers and recognize the patterns of the body’s connection to our mental state. We also work to strengthen this connection to facilitate our ability to receive the information and the cue’s that the body is constantly providing. By creating an “inner body” awareness and identifying specific body responses that correlate to the trauma and the associated emotions, we re-establish an awareness of a connection that has always existed.
In the final stage, we begin to incorporate physical connection into the process in order to reintegrate the mind and body. This will vary greatly based in the clients individual needs, comfort levels and previous progress. The goal is to regain control over individual response and to begin to experience what it is like to be present in our own body. We maintain consistent, predetermined “checking in” style communication to facilitate the clients complete control over the interaction. Through this process, we essentially mitigate one’s state of disassociation and then facilitate re-association and reintegration of our inherent mind and body connection.
While it is a complex and comprehensive program, in its essence, it is simply a program designed to help a client to rediscover something that each of us already knows on a very basic level.