The SMART Approach

What is SMART?

SMART stands for Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment, an innovative mental health therapy for children and adolescents who have experienced complex trauma to help them with emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal regulation.

What does SMART do?

SMART utilizes an array of therapeutic equipment, such as weighted blankets, balance beams, fitness balls, and large cushions, in shared play to support children’s natural ways of regulating their bodies and their emotions to facilitate attachment-building, and to allow for embodied processing of traumatic experiences.

The treatment blends movement and relationship to regulate arousal states and powerful affect, thereby engaging the subcortical and cortical neural pathways to increase behavioral and psychological integration.

Moreover, SMART widens the child’s window of tolerance for both positive and negative emotional states and for interpersonal connection so that healthy development can proceed.
Who would benefit from SMART therapy

What makes SMART different?

Our approach does not rely on language and awareness as an entry point. A coherent narrative and cognitive understanding emerges as a result of fully embodied play engaging the sensory, motor, limbic, and arousal systems for self-exploration. Our program:
  • Engages the sensory motor systems, especially the vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile sensory systems for emotional, psychological, and relational regulation and repair.
  • Follows the child’s lead while tending to safety and using full body participatory play with the child to work with the unfolding process of developing new skills and processing traumatic experience.
  • Uses videotape case review and reflection to support more precise focus on the underlying patterns of behavior, including areas of avoidance and of strength for the child, which informs more tailored interventions and treatment plans.
  • Rapidly builds both general and SMART specific clinical skills in therapists and promotes strong, supportive clinical team camaraderie through shared review and discussion of SMART treatment.

How will SMART help caregivers and parents?

SMART helps you increase caregivers’ windows of tolerance and their self-regulatory capacity for the work with their traumatized children and helps you build caregivers’ co-regulation skills and rhythms of relationship with their children from the bottom-up.

The treatment increases your empathy and understanding for caregiver challenges as you review and reflect on your work in SMART consultation videotape review.

In addition, the approach helps you build strategies and regulation toolboxes that can be easily built into the daily routine at home, in the community, and in educational and residential care settings.

Evidence Informed

SMART has been listed as an Evidence Based Practice with the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness, and in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and practices (NREPP)/SAMSHA as a Promising Practice meeting the SAMSHA guidelines for selecting child trauma treatments. Currently SMARTmoves, LLC is in collaboration with a research team at the University of Western Ontario in Canada under the direction of Ruth Lanius MD, Ph.D. to develop an adult adaptation and to understand the underlying mechanisms of change.
Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness
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450 Lexington St., Unit 203
Newton, MA 02466
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