Body Psychotherapy and Trauma Recovery
Body Psychotherapy or” somatic” therapy is a holistic approach supporting a person’s ability to readjust, rebalance, and awaken the power of the body-mind’s capacity to heal itself. Somatic comes from the Greek word “soma”, the unity between the body and the mind. Body Psychotherapy is based on the following principles:
Embodied: working with the body
Holistic: attends to the mind, body, and spirit of each person
Collaborative: includes the client as an equal and active participant in the therapy process
Mindful: therapist and client stay open and curious to what emerges moment to moment.
The symptoms of trauma and stress are held in the body both consciously and unconsciously. When the nervous system does not reset itself after a traumatic experience, the body holds unreleased trauma patterns and physiological distress. Trauma influences and changes our self-perception, life meaning and how we connect with others, interrupting our life flow and satisfaction. We can become stuck or loop in fight, flight, freeze responses. Or we develop coping strategies to avoid, numb, and block out overwhelming feelings and memories connected to any part of extreme stress or trauma. As a result, we also block out our “embodied” experience, or our ability to use the body as a resource for recovery.
Moaiku Relational Therapy:
Moaiku Relational Therapy is a somatic method that supports healing, integration and recovery from prolonged stress states and trauma. “This method builds functional coping capacity and healing potential through body-based skill training and emotional processing.” (Merete Brantjberg 2008)
The aim of this somatic method is to integrate body awareness, sensations, feelings, behaviors, thoughts, explicit and implicit memories, and protective patterns that are a result of traumatic experiences. In supporting a person to integrate these experiences, trauma patterns are healed and transformed to allow for the forward moving flow of life and for one’s authentic self to develop and evolve.
Regulating the Nervous System
As trauma memories are triggered through body sensations, memories, images or interactions with others, psycho-motor skills support the regulation of the nervous system decreasing hyper- arousal (suck on on) or hypo- arousal ( stuck in off). By regulating the nervous system, emotional responses, perceptions and self-talk are no longer high jacked by traumatic experiences.
Trauma changes the personality and changes how we relate to ourselves and others. As a result of trauma, we sometimes develop relational patterns that are based in protection and safety, avoidance, anxiety or control. The somatic method described supports the recovery from relational trauma. (a trauma that involves another person or group of people). Relational trauma can be a onetime event or an ongoing experience that occurred in present day or in the past.
We all develop patterns of relating to ourselves and others based on early family, caregiving or school experiences. Our style of relating or attachment varies. It can develop into a secure, avoidant, ambivalent or chaotic pattern and change as we form relationships with different people. We automatically default to an attachment style because it was reinforced over time through ongoing interaction patterns with others. Our attachment styles can also be formed through life experiences of complex loss, separation and traumatic experiences.
The therapeutic relationship is foundational in supporting the experience of secure attachment and developing satisfying connections with self and others. The therapist’s role is to be attuned moment to moment to the client’s needs, and be sensitive to the client’s relational style. The pace of teaching somatic awareness is regulated with the integration of psycho-motor skills. By teaching skills that support working with another person, equality is re-established and a co-operative, curious, open, relaxed, playful pattern of relating is discovered.
Moaiku Relational therapy supports our ability to reconnect and fulfill our emotional and physical needs, discover our inner authority and repair relationship patterns.
How psycho-motor skills are effective in trauma recovery
All trauma experiences are overwhelming life altering events that we are not prepared for. As we try to recover, we soon realize that our everyday coping strategies we have relied on in the past are no longer helpful or effective.
By teaching psycho-motor skills, (precise and simple body movements) a bridge is created shifting trauma patterns that are locked in the body and in the personality linking resources and skills lost to the person at the time of the trauma. By discovering resources in the body, a person is better able to regulate their nervous system, avoiding patterns of fight, flight or freeze. Using specific skills can also support the release of a muscular movement, unlock emotions and integrate memories that were connected to a traumatic experience. This allows for the completion of a self-supporting action that was unavailable at the time of trauma.
Re-establishing conscious choice for self-support
The therapist matches skills to a client’s therapeutic goals and needs. The therapist teaches the skill and introduces the principle of dosing, which is the amount of movement or energy that is a fit for the client. Psycho-motor skills increase “here and now” awareness with the body, broadening ones choice for discovering emotional and physical survival strategies lost in the experience of trauma. This method enables a person to regain independence in healing and recovery and to trust the intuitive wisdom of the body. This method is a coaching and collaborative model enabling the client to learn and integrate body awareness and practice skills in a time frame that best works for the person.
Psycho –Motor Skills taught in Maoiku Relational Therapy
Feeling present in one’s body in the here and now supports our connection with our sensory awareness.
Ability to orient within ourselves and to our surroundings in present time.
Discovering our ability to feel grounded and centered reawakens our foundation of support and our ability to tap into our core self.
Resetting our experience of our internal and external boundaries supports new patterns of regulating contact with others.
Learning flexibility in the muscle and joint system supports adaptability, flow and choice.
Regulating contact with others resets patterns of connection, cooperation and joy.
Regulating contact with others supports emotional and physical safety with others.
Body sensing supports linking thoughts, emotions, and memories and body-mind integration
To learn more about Moaiku Relational Therapy and its founder, Merete Brantjberg, visit
This information on body psychotherapy was inspired by Peter Levine, Pat Ogden and Merete Brantjberg.