Early Relational Trauma: The Applicability of Somatic Therapy Using Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and Somatic Experiencing Principles
The impact of early relational trauma has profound consequences in an individual’s life. Early brain development undergoes a critical period and is dependent upon the child’s social environment. Social stressors can disrupt the child’s development of the self and their self-regulatory functions. The current study aims to explore the use of somatic therapy in treating early relational trauma in adults. Somatic therapy differs from traditional talk therapy in that it uses a bottom-up processing approach. A bottom-up approach targets lower-level processing structures of the brain, which develop earlier in life. Using this therapeutic modality allows for ingrained responses to be interrupted and replaced with more constructive ones. However, it can also cause painful emotional contact with dissociated memories of traumatic events. Somatic therapy is only one route out of many that can be used to access implicit memories. This paper shows how abstracting the core principals of two somatic therapies, Sensorimotor Psychotherapy (SP) and Somatic Experiencing (SE), can be applied to treat early relational trauma. In spite of somatic therapy theoretically being a good fit to treat early-relational trauma, this project’s review of existing empirical evidence identified an overwhelming lack of research on the efficacy of early-relational trauma treatment. The last chapter presents a hypothetical case to illustrate how the principles of SE and SP can be applied, and closes with the recommendation that more research in this area clearly needs to be done.