Medical Somatic Psychotherapy


For those with chronic pain, chronic illness, injury, progressive desease, and other physical problems with known or unknown etiology

Medical Somatic Psychotherapy is a branch of body-centered psychotherapy that is focused on those who suffer from injury, chronic injury, chronic illness, chronic pain, progressive diseasepsychosomatic symptoms, and other limitations in physical functioning. It is also an appropriate intervention for those heading into medical procedures, particularly if the patient shows signs of anxiety and/or conflict related to the upcoming procedure. Additionally, it is useful in trauma related to medical procedures (e.g. consciousness breakthrough during anesthesia, sense of violation, etc.)

Medical Somatic Psychotherapy is provided by trained, body-centered psychotherapists who are also trained in at least one other physical healing modality such as physical therapy, massage therapy, etc. Unlike most medical health providers who tend to orient to the patient’s body as an object to be manipulated, the orientation of a medical somatic psychotherapists is to address the body-psyche-spirit of the patient. We do not act upon the patient but interact with them.

As a specialized field, most somatic (body-centered) psychotherapists working with patients with medical conditions also have personal experience with difficult physical symptoms. This gives them a highly attuned capacity to work effectively with psycho-spiritual-physical structures. Because physical injury and illness can often bring up unresolved childhood trauma and attachment issues, Medical Somatic Psychotherapists typically are widely trained in a variety of other psychotherapeutic modalities.

Chronic illness, pain, and injury can have devastating effects on the lives of those who suffer from them such as, inability to cope, depression, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, anxiety, need for external support, dependency issues, employment difficulties, financial hardship, existential crisis, disrupted family relationships, divorce, erosion of self-esteem, and self-identity crisis.

Psychological symptoms such as anxiety and depression, as well as life difficulties of those with chronic conditions are rarely acknowledged nor treated. Untreated psychological suffering can further limit physical healing and functioning. Physical symptoms, especially chronic symptoms, can create an adversarial relationship with the body in which the body is seen as betrayer. This creates an aversion to the body and prevents the individual from listening to and appropriately responding to the body’s messages. Traumatic experience, both physical and psychological, can also result in a disconnection from the body. Unconscious muscular and energetic holding patterns are often seen in those suffering from trauma. Such holding patterns create tension, which prevents healing and can be the source of chronic conditions.

Medical Somatic Psychotherapists understand that the psyche and the body work in tandem – a rupture in one creates a rupture in the other. Medical Somatic Psychotherapists work in conjunction with other health care providers and integrate body-centered psychotherapy, movement, and psychotherapeutic touch in order to heal the whole person.

  • Benefits and Goals of MSP are to:
  • Reduce symptoms – both physical and psychological.
  • Establish a healthy relationship with the body.
  • Increase patient capacity for self-advocacy with health care providers.
  • Receive assistance in communicating with health care providers, including attending medical appointments if needed.
  • Develop a positive orientation to the injury, illness and physical symptoms.
  • Psychologically and functionally prepare for surgery and recovery.
  • For those with terminal or progressive illnesses, prepare for disability or death.
  • Heal recent trauma and any unresolved trauma that may be reactivated by the medical condition.
  • Decrease sense of powerlessness.
  • Uncover the roots of physical symptoms.
  • Improve motivation to comply with medical recommendations.
  • Increase coping skills.
  • Feel better.

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