Overview of Program

Therapists regularly confront the insidious impact of shame on their traumatized clients’ ability to find relief and perspective even with experienced therapists grounded in trauma-informed treatment. Clients feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy interfere with taking in positive experiences, leaving only hopelessness and worthlessness. Increased ability for self-assertion gets undermined by belief systems about being unworthy or undeserving. Progress in the treatment, increasing relief from symptoms and even greater success in life paradoxically tend to evoke shame and self-judgment rather than pride.


This workshop will introduce participants to understanding shame from a neurobiological perspective - as a survival strategy driving somatic responses of automatic obedience and total submission.  Using lecture, videotape, and experiential exercises drawn from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, a body-oriented talking therapy, participants will learn to help clients relate to their symptoms with curiosity rather than automatic acceptance. When traditional psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioural techniques are integrated with Sensorimotor interventions emphasizing posture, movement, and gesture, issues of shame can become an avenue to compassion for self and transformation rather than self-disgust and a source of remaining stuck in cognitive distortions and old beliefs.

Learning Objectives

Attendees will be able to:


  1. Facilitate clients to appreciate the role of shame and self-loathing as symptoms of trauma
  2. Identify the neurobiological effects of shame
  3. Assist clients to discriminate the physiological and cognitive contributors to shame
  4. Use somatic interventions drawn from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy to decrease shame-related symptoms
  5. Describe cognitive-behavioral, ego state, and psychoeducational interventions to address shame


Program Outline

The Neurobiology of Shame

Ÿ           The role of shame in traumatic experience

Ÿ           Shame as an animal defense survival response

Ÿ           Effects of shame on autonomic arousal

Ÿ           Why shame is so treatment-resistant

Shame’s Evolutionary Purpose

Ÿ           Shame and the attachment system

Ÿ           Rupture and repair in attachment formation

Ÿ           What happens to shame without interpersonal repair

Making Meaning of Shame

Ÿ           Feelings of disgust, degradation, and humiliation are interpreted as “who I am”

Ÿ           Cognitive schemas exacerbate shame

Ÿ           Internal working models predict the future and determine our actions

Working from the “Bottom Up”

Ÿ           Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: physiological state as the entry point for treatment

Ÿ           The role of procedural learning and memory

Ÿ           Physiological effects of mindful dual awareness

Ÿ           Regulating shame states with somatic interventions

Ÿ           Using mindfulness-based techniques to inhibit self-judgment

Ÿ           Using Sensorimotor Psychotherapy techniques to shift shame states

 Cognitive-Behavioural Interventions to Shift Physiological State

Ÿ          Cognition and the body

Ÿ          Resourcing versus de-resourcing thoughts

Ÿ          Differentiating thoughts, feelings, and body sensations

 A New Relationship to the Shame: Acceptance and Compassion

Ÿ           Re-contextualizing shame as a younger self or part

Ÿ           Dual awareness of who we are now and who we were then

Ÿ           Getting to know our “selves”

Ÿ           Bringing our adult capacity to our childhood vulnerability

Ÿ           Healing shame through compassionate acceptance

 The Social Engagement System and the Healing of Shame

Ÿ           Social engagement and the ventral vagal system (Porges)

Ÿ           The incompatibility of shame and social engagement

Ÿ           The therapist’s own social engagement system as a healing agent