What is it about?

Research shows the disruptive effects of early maltreatment on the autonomic nervous system functioning, which can contribute to body-based stress symptoms. By comparing body psychotherapists to the general population, the present study aimed to explore the effects of practicing body psychotherapy on the link between early maltreatment and autonomic symptoms in adulthood. An online study included 570 body psychotherapists from 35 countries and 592 participants from the U.S. general population. We first established that body perception in the specific sample of body psychotherapy practitioners can be described by the same three dimensions which were previously identified in the general population - one relating to body awareness and two relating to autonomic reactivity. Compared to the general population, body psychotherapists reported higher levels of childhood maltreatment, but fewer autonomic symptoms in adulthood, better differentiation of body awareness and autonomic reactivity, and a weaker association between childhood maltreatment experiences and present-day autonomic symptoms.

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Why is it important?

Results indicate that research is needed to understand how training in body psychotherapy may help overcome the effects of adverse childhood experience on autonomic nervous system functioning, which may further contribute to the quality of therapeutic alliance and the communication with clients.


Similar effects could be identified in the population of BPT clients, which could be studied using sensor-based measures of autonomic function (e.g., heart rate variability, blood pressure, etc.).

Biljana Jokic

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Association of childhood maltreatment with adult body awareness and autonomic reactivity: The moderating effect of practicing body psychotherapy., Psychotherapy, November 2022, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pst0000463.
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