For attendees of the 30th Annual International Trauma Conference, it was an opportunity to explore what it feels like to be a kid receiving SMART treatment by trying out some of the same equipment we use to help kids become physiologically regulated. Experiential learning is central to the SMART approach, from therapist training to treatment. For the Exploratorium, we converted a corner of the ballroom into an ad hoc SMART room and set it up with physioballs, balance boards, weighted blankets, a large “Walrus” pillow, and two aerial yoga hammocks. We even had a corner of the room devoted to virtual reality (VR) with a choice of two experiences. “Walk the Plank” simulated stepping out the window of a skyscraper onto a wooden plank—really just a length of 1” x 12” lumber lying on top of the carpet—while “theBlu” provided an immersive underwater experience complete with an encounter with a whale.
SMART therapy relies on input from the vestibular, proprioceptive, and tactile sensory systems—as well as exteroception and the more subtle sense of interoception. We asked people to notice shifts in their own bodies and come up with some ideas about how SMART could be helpful to clients all ages.
It was a hit. A few conference-goers were so eager to get started that they went behind the scenes and started setting up the hammocks we had tucked away until time to start. We talked to people about their experiences on the pillows, in the hammocks, and wearing the VR goggles. Here’s some of what they said.
Aerial Yoga Hammock Most people found the hammock relaxing and regulating. It evoked feelings of floating and weightlessness and sensations of being held. One person felt that being in the hammock enhanced her interoceptive awareness, despite the distractions of conference noise all around. A woman who described herself as “normally very anxious” said that, when she lay down in the hammock, “I wasn’t anxious anymore at all; it just went away.”