thoracic muscle bracing

Dr Pat Ogden is a pioneer in somatic psychology and both Founder and Education Director of Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute®, an internationally recognized school specializing in somatic–cognitive approaches for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and attachment disturbances.

She describes extensive muscle bracing in the chest and abdomen regions which are likely unrecognised by the person. When working with people seeking help for mental health symptoms and using the breath, she says;

“Breathing techniques should be used with caution. Interventions that strongly change breathing, such as hyperventilation techniques, can trigger catharsis, and are nearly always ill-advised. Even deep relaxing breathing interventions can be problematic because they stimulate the dorsal vagal complex, which may induce anxiety for clients who are implicitly reminded of past trauma during which they experienced dorsal vagal tone and shutdown”.

A series of worksheets is available, including guidance for using the breath which can be adapted for dissociative clients. Some worksheets are available to view for free here,


  • Pat Ogden and Janina Fisher. “Sensorimotor Psychotherapy: Interventions for Trauma and Attachment (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology)” 2015).
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