Treating Pain & Trauma


In 1979, while a member of the Psychology Department at Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine—New York University Langone Medical Center, Dr. Sommer Anderson began treating people with musculoskeletal back pain.  She worked on the rehabilitation team led by attending physician, John Sarno, MD, who had defined a medical condition, first referred to as Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS), as the cause of the majority of musculoskeletal back pain conditions in the United States.  Dr. Sarno has delineated his clinical findings and his theory in medical journals and in books written for a general audience--Healing Back Pain (1991), The Mindbody Prescription (1998), and The Divided Mind (2006).  He has redefined TMS as Tension Myoneural Syndrome.

After leaving Rusk Institute in 1987 for full-time private practice and teaching, Dr. Sommer Anderson continued to collaborate with John Sarno, MD in treating back pain.  Her first psychoanalytic publication, a case study of treating one of Dr. Sarno's TMS patients, appeared in Relational Perspectives on the Body, which she co-edited with Lewis Aron (The Analytic Press 1998). The Italian edition of this book was published in 2004. In this presentation, she illustrated how overwhelming emotions that are difficult to experience can be linked to back pain and demonstrated her psychotherapeutic approach to treatment that relieved the pain.

Dr. Sommer Anderson has been invited to present her clinical work on treating pain in a wide range of psychoanalytic and medical settings.  In her teaching appointments, she lectures and supervises clinical psychology graduate students and psychoanalytic candidates on the treatment of pain.  She has developed a teaching technique, Experiencing the Pain Matrix, to help mental health clinicians, medical professionals, licensed bodyworkers, and yoga teachers learn about the complexity of the experience of physical pain and how to intervene effectively.   As Contributing Editor of Bodies in Treatment: The Unspoken Dimension, published in June 2007 by The Analytic Press/Taylor & Francis Group,  Dr. Sommer Anderson describes how she developed a TMS  pain symptom that was related to early childhood emotional trauma.