Our Story

Our Start

In 2006, Sensory Motor Arousal Regulation Treatment (SMART) was born when a group of child therapists at the Trauma Center, founded by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D., came together in a child study group led by Elizabeth Warner. It was clear that use of language and symbolic play to process traumatic experience overwhelmed the clients in our practices and did not meet their needs. We wanted to explore new ways to treat the challenges of behavioral and emotional dysregulation of children impacted by trauma through incorporation of new research, perspectives, and opportunities.
Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.

Our Collaboration with Jane Koomar

In 2007, Jane Koomar, an occupational therapist and developmental
psychologist, invited Trauma Center therapists, including the fledgling SMART team to her sensory integration occupational therapy clinic, now known as OTA The Koomar Center. She was exploring how trauma and attachment disruptions were getting in the way for occupational therapy clients. We all wondered how the opportunities her clinic afforded clients could be useful in a trauma therapy. Thus, began a fruitful collaboration in which we learned about sensory motor regulation for the child from the perspective of basic sensory integration.
Jane Koomar, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA 

Our First Smart Room

In 2008, with seed funding from the ANS Foundation and the Cummings Foundation, we opened the SMART room equipped with mats, large crash cushions, physioballs, mini-trampolines, and balance equipment to invite exploration, movement, and fully embodied play. Children and their caregivers seeking trauma therapy intuitively recognized the need for this alternative approach. Trauma Center therapists joined us in experimenting with this new paradigm. We equipped the room with a video camera with a wide-angle lens and began to track the unfolding events. Video recording review and reflection made it possible to observe and track the client’s and therapist’s use of the equipment and the space, as well as to capture the positive changes in psychological organization.
Our first SMART Room

Our Spiral Grows

From 2009 to 2011, through our clinical work and video reflection, we discovered ways these new tools for effective somatic regulation also promoted fully embodied trauma processing. As we consulted to adolescent therapists in other treatment sites, and viewed many clinical video recordings, this dance between somatic regulation and trauma processing took form in the SMART Spiral. The demand for SMART training and consultation connected us with even more therapists. With further clinical evidence for the viability of this “bottom-up” approach, we wrote the first SMART Manual for dissemination.

By 2014, many therapists in the US and abroad had asked how we incorporated caregivers into treatment, so we focused our video review of SMART sessions on attachment processes. We observed children and adults creating new rhythms of engagement through use of the equipment, fully embodied games, and dramatic play. In our revised manual in 2014, we described the power of SMART for attachment-building and added the final thread of the treatment Spiral.
The manual
Our most recent book

On Our Own

In 2018, we founded SMARTmoves Partners to continue to focus on professional training and consultation in SMART and its applications for professionals in mental health, educational, and community-based settings.

In 2020, we published our comprehensive, up-to-date description of our model, including case studies and the range of applications.. We responded to the pandemic by adapting our training to remote learning, increasing frequency and accessibility of trainings nationally and internationally. Finally, we happily settled into our new physical home in Auburndale, Massachusetts.
The SMARTMoves logo

Our Commitment to Growth and Collaboration

  • We are expanding our consultation work to knit SMART minded thinkers around the globe together.
  • Our collaboration with Dr. Ruth Lanius, and her team at Western Ontario University and her colleagues at McMasters University allows us to examine the mechanics of change and treatment efficacy.
  • SMARTplay has applied SMART principles for attachment-building and somatic regulation for pregnant mothers, and for young children and their caregivers.
  • SMARTmoves Partners participate in building a trauma-informed 'circle of care' for children and families in our Boston community with the Cory Johnson Program for Post-traumatic Healing.
Spreading SMART around the globe
450 Lexington St., Suite 203
Newton, MA 02466
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