Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute (SPI) is a professional educational organization that designs and provides the highest-level trainings and services to serve a global network of mental health practitioners*, and for the public at large. Seeking to enhance human relationships, our paradigm is substantiated by interpersonal neurobiology and impelled by mindfulness applied in interactive contexts.
*SPI is neither a regulatory nor licensing organization and therefore not sanctioned to certify, license, or otherwise bestow the legal authorization to practice as a mental health professional.
To deliver an unparalleled state-of-the-art somatic psychotherapy worldwide through education, practice, and research.
To harness the innate wisdom of the body to liberate human potential.
Dr. Pat Ogden, Founder of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
In the early 1970s, while working as a technician and yoga/dance teacher at a short-term psychiatric hospital, Pat Ogden became interested in the correlation between her clients’ disconnection from their bodies, their physical patterns and their psychological issues. Before the Diagnosis of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), Dr. Ogden recognized first-hand the way in which many of her patients were at the mercy of reliving the past, and that current treatment methods only seemed to trigger traumatic reminders. Recognizing the link between the body and psychological issues, she began to form the foundations of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy® by joining somatic therapy and psychotherapy into a comprehensive method for healing this disconnection between body and mind. In 1981, after co-founding the Hakomi Institute, pioneered by Ron Kurtz, Dr. Ogden founded her own school, a branch of the Hakomi Institute, which is known today as the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute (SPI).
What is Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?
Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) is a complete treatment modality to heal trauma and attachment issues. SP welcomes the body as an integral source of information for processing past experiences relating to upsetting or traumatic events and developmental wounds. SP incorporates the physical and sensory experience, as well as thoughts and emotions, as part of the person’s complete experience of both the trauma itself and the process of healing. SP seeks to restore a person’s ability to process information without being triggered by past experience.
The interview below of Dr. Ogden on The Trauma Therapist Podcast features discussion of a composite case, which helps highlight the use of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy in practice.
Working With Trauma From the Bottom Up
Ongoing Development of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy
Dr. Ogden is currently developing Sensorimotor Psychotherapy for children, adolescents, families, and couples with colleagues.
Several research studies to gather data on the effectiveness of SP are underway or in the process of publication at the following institutions:
- Maudsley Hospital (London, UK)
- Womens’ College Hospital (Toronto, Ontario)
- Modum Bad Outpatient Clinic (Oslo, Norway)
Frequently Asked Questions
What can Sensorimotor Psychotherapy help with?
SP can bridge the gap when traditional “talk” therapy has not helped. SP can help with trauma and attachment related issues such as:
- Having difficulty concentrating due to fear, upsetting thoughts, or unwelcomed physical (body) sensations
- Intense and disturbing emotional reactions that seem out of place with the present situation
- Post-traumatic stress: abuse, attack, accidents, flashbacks, nightmares. Feeling frozen or stuck in familiar circumstances without understanding why
- Difficulty enjoying life, feeling hopeful, and experiencing pleasure
- Relationship related wounds: neglect, harsh parenting during childhood, divorce, child-parent separations
- Persistent and regular negative thoughts about one’s ability to achieve, be successful and deserving
- Difficulty maintaining a job, a family, friendships and other relationships
- Feeling detached from one’s self and the world
How does Sensorimotor Psychotherapy work?
SP is a comprehensive treatment approach developed by Pat Ogden, PhD. Some therapists use SP in addition to other treatment approaches to include the body as a valuable piece of one’s experience. SP is informed by research in physiology, neuroscience, psychology, and sociology. Several Hakomi principles also guide this approach, as Dr. Ogden founded a branch of the Hakomi Institute, Hakomi Integrative Somatics, which is known today as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.
SP uses a three-phase treatment approach to gently guide the client through the therapeutic process – Safety and Stabilization, Processing, and Integration. Therapist and client collaboration are essential to the SP approach. The therapist must pay close attention to the client to ensure that they are not overwhelmed by the process while simultaneously engaging their own abilities and capacities for healing.
It is thought that SP strengthens instinctual capacities for survival and assists clients to re-instate or develop resources which were unavailable or missing at the time the trauma or wounding occurred. Once resources are developed and in place, the traumatic event can be processed with the aid of resources.
SP is a well-developed approach with decades of success in the treatment of trauma and developmental wounds. With positive therapeutic outcomes solidly in place, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute aspires to embark on a program of research to study more closely how SP works and establish a strong, evidence base.
What do clients say about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy?
“I utilize SP as a stand-alone approach as well as incorporating it into my existing repertoire of therapeutic modalities. It has transformed my clients. Not only have they made progress, they have maintained their gains. They typically experience a sense of awe, as they become aware that they already possess the tools to heal. A client with complex trauma summed up the benefits of the SP approach, “There is more correspondence between my body and my brain!””
-R.L. Level I Alumnus
What is SP’s Connection to Ron Kurtz's Hakomi Method?
Pat Ogden, founder of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, and Ron Kurtz, pioneer of the Hakomi method and founder of the Hakomi Institute, were close friends and colleagues from the early 1970s until his passing in 2011. Ogden apprenticed with Ron in the early 70s and was certified in Hakomi before any formal trainings were conducted at the institute. As Educational Director at Hakomi, she designed the original curriculum in its entirety. Alongside Kurtz, Ogden co-taught the very first Hakomi training and she was the first person to be certified in Hakomi. Dr. Ogden was named a Legacy Holder for the Hakomi Education Netwrok by Kurtz.
With Kurtz’s blessing and support, Dr. Ogden founded her own institute in 1981. Initially named Hakomi Bodywork, and later Hakomi Integrative Somatics, Dr. Ogden pursued her interest in trauma, movement, and posture. Inspired by her work with sexual abuse survivors, Ogden developed an interest in trauma work that used the body as a vehicle for transformation, rather than as a means to access psychological issues, and in 2002, Ogden renamed her school, the Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute.