May 2, 2016

Meet the Speaker: Pat Ogden

There is now little more than one month remaining until the 2016 International Childhood Trauma Conference begins. It is an exciting time, and we thought it perfect to share our interview with Pat Ogden, author and pioneer in somatic psychology. Pat is one of our much loved returning speakers from the 2014 conference, and those who were there will no doubt remember the ‘Wonder Woman’ pose which sparked such a trend on social media and in the app!

Pat Ogden

1. What was a pivotal experience (the “spark”) that started you off in your research and/or practice:

In the early 1970s, I was teaching yoga and dance in a psychiatric hospital, and I noticed that the patients who did my classes seemed to get better faster, which piqued my curiosity about the role the body might have in mitigating psychiatric disorders. Then by a stroke of incredible synchronicity, I met Ron Kurtz whose work confirmed my faith in the body’s healing power. Ron used physical habits and mindful awareness rather than “talking about” to elicit the felt experience of powerful emotions and beliefs. His approach challenged everything I had ever been taught about psychotherapy. Watching Ron work seemed like magic to me, and I wanted to know what he knew. So I quit graduate school in social work to move to Colorado to apprentice with Ron, and didn’t complete my graduate degree in psychology until this century. Ron couldn’t really explain what he did, but I learned by osmosis as we traveled together through the 70s and early 80s conducting workshops throughout the US.

2. Who from your childhood would have known that you would do the sort of work you are doing? And why?

My mother was an artist who always noticed a person’s carriage and poise. As a young child I remember her saying that since I was tall, it was even more important to stand up straight and move with grace. When I was 7 years old, she insisted I join a weekly modern dance class. My dance teacher tried to show us how to move with a dancer’s poise, lengthening our bodies as if we were reaching toward the sky with the top of our heads. I felt the difference immediately and the teacher made a big fuss over my carriage and how I moved. I was too tall to dance in the performances in those days, and actually got kicked out of a few dance classes because I was “too tall,” but I never forgot what it felt like to “live” in my body in an integrated, aligned way. So perhaps my dance teacher had a glimpse of my resonance with the body and its movement, but I doubt she thought I would somehow find a way to integrate it into my profession.

3. What has been the most important insight that you have derived from your work that you hope others would find interesting?

Our physical expressions are critical to our mental and emotional well-being. The nonverbal language of gesture, posture, prosody, facial expression, eye gaze and movement both reflects and sustains implicit processes shaped in the brain and body even before the acquisition of language. Formed in the context of trauma and attachment, our habits of movement and posture communicate implicit meanings and expectations that powerfully influence the quality of our experience, and are viable targets for therapeutic intervention.

4. What is one new idea that you are hoping to share with delegates at the conference in 2016?

I want to explore the interface of intimacy and distance between caregivers and children, looking at proximity seeking and defense/boundary setting actions and the inborn psychobiological action systems that drive these actions. The idea is to help caregivers and children to learn together that proximity-seeking actions and relational boundaries go hand in hand, and both contribute to increased connection, intimacy and harmony.

If you haven’t yet registered and would like to hear more from Pat, then the International Childhood Trauma Conference is the perfect Professional Development opportunity for you! You can find out more here. Additionally, you can learn more about Sensorimotor Psychotherapy here.