Trauma Psychotherapy, Pilates, EMDR and Sensorimotor Work

Is Pilates the missing step in treating trauma?

Posted Dec 08, 2017

The effects of trauma linger in the mind and body, both in terms of psychological suffering and physical pain. Often physical pains serve as mobile monuments to overwhelming traumatic events that alter neurobiological systems and psychosocial functioning. 

We know that supportive, trauma-informed psychotherapy is highly effective by teaching the survivor improved coping skills, stress and anger management, increasing understanding of post-traumatic symptoms in addition to gaining a host of other beneficial tools for thriving.  Of course, it is the relationship which helps to rebuild a sense of safety that is often fundamentally shaken by traumatic life events.  But strictly traditional trauma-focused psychotherapy often falls short of completely resolving the energy of trauma that is somehow trapped on a cellular level in the body. Chronic pain, fibromyalgia symptoms, and other physical manifestations can reflect unresolved psychological trauma residuals. 

In working with auto accident and other trauma, I find it optimal when survivors do some work with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and sensorimotor psychotherapy techniques and procedures while also receiving regular massage therapy and work with a supportive Pilates personal trainer.  As the trauma is processed on verbal levels, the resolution can also be supported on the physical level. Restorative yoga is also a wonderful activity that supports healing on multiple levels. Engaging in concurrent modalities can greatly speed trauma resolution while regaining control of mind and body.

I am particularly impressed with the benefits of Pilates which improves core strength, balance, coordination, and confidence. Training for Pilates instructors would be enhanced by some emphasis on the psychology of the mind-body connection in trauma. The same can be said for massage therapist training. Many psychotherapists are studying and including somatic approaches in efforts to bridge the mind-body gap. 

I believe enhanced cooperation between psychotherapists and physical trainers working with trauma survivors will continue to grow to the great benefit of consumers of such services.