top of page

How does SMART Therapy work?

Zen Somatics,
the art of psychotherapy



It is an integrated therapy model that combines proven interventions in Cognitive, Emotional, Somatic and Relational methods. These approaches combined help to reduce symptoms related to Trauma & PTSD, Dependency, Anxiety, Depression, Phobias, and relationship issues. Also eating disorders, personality disorders, and thinking disorders. The core philosophy of this approach posits that these difficulties are rooted in issues of self-regulation. Therefore, the goal of SMART therapy is to optimize self-regulation. The way we do this is through assisting clientele to coordinate the flow of energy and information through the major systems of the brain—brain stem, limbic circuits, neocortex, autonomic nervous system, and frontal cortex. From here we then move towards relationship to other people and their brains.

SMART Therapy was developed by Dai Kato when he was a clinician at the Denver Family Institute. He recorded hundreds of hours of SMART session videos to analyze their therapeutic effectiveness. From this deep analysis, he discovered that the effectiveness of therapy is determined, not by the methodology, but by the congruence between the therapeutic modality and the needs of the client's immediate process. This fluidity of modality without favoring one over the other has rendered SMART therapy highly effective in a multitude of psychological treatments. This includes, but is not limited to, treatment for mental and substance disorders, neurological issues, performance, and relationships. 


“When we’re in this secure, stable state of mind-brain-body equilibrium, we can face life’s vicissitudes with some measure of emotionally calm flexibility, self-awareness, and reason.” Dan Siegel, MD

How does SMART Therapy work?

The theory of SMART Therapy is based on research that shows that thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations are interacting constantly. SMART therapeutic perspective espouses that there is a neurobiological link between behavior, thoughts, emotion, and sensation. SMART’s holistic perspective sees that the roots of behavior stem from the nervous system, which transmits neurons through synaptic space and sends signals to the body using neuromuscular sites (the meeting place of a nerve and a muscle fiber). From here the brain interprets the sensation into emotions, emotions then generate thoughts, and thoughts activate behaviors. 


SMART Therapy as a root treatment for your brain.

“Healing doesn’t mean the damage never existed. It means the damage no longer controls our lives.”

SMART Therapy uses brief interventions, from a behavioral health standpoint, to reduce symptoms in the initial phases. In the long run, it also becomes an etiological, root treatment for changing reactions to impulse and mitigating destructive behaviors by cultivating nervous system and neuromuscular awareness using “Static Movement” treatment. In order to prevent relapse, SMART then establishes Authentic Routines to support recovery.


”Staying Embodied"Static Movement Therapy

"Trauma is encoded in the brain stem, the thalamus, the limbic system, and the hypothalamus. And the language of that part of the brain is a bodily sensation. To investigate trauma, we have to be able to talk in that language, to guide the person in that language." Peter Levine, PhD

The heart and soul of the work we do is found in helping clients to be present with their growing process and get to completion through balancing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations in order to improve the quality of life and their relationships. The Static Movement portion of the SMART treatment program integrates Evidence-based Cognitive Therapy, Emotionally Focused Therapy, and Contemplative Psychotherapy and Meditation in order to cultivate deep awareness of the bodies’ internal movements during periods of intentional mindfulness.  Dependencies, Trauma symptoms, depression, breakups, breakdowns, estranged family members, communication difficulties, sexuality, and affairs… all of these have consequences in our lives. One of the more serious factors pertaining to life’s myriad difficulties is that unresolved processes directly affect our future actions. SMART methods state that It is often possible, to not only resolve such life-issues, but to transform debilitating, dysfunctional dynamics into beautiful and meaningful healing through that completion.


SMART Koji Zen Mindfulness Practice 

SMART Koji Zen is bringing a cutting edge practice directly from Japan that combines the elegance of a rich zen tradition with contemporary science and a secular viewpoint. It is designed to combine two evidence-based Mindfulness practices. The first is based on evidence of parasympathetic activation during meditation that codified the physiological effect as a relaxation response (CITE). The second expands on this research to include categories of meditation as either involving focused or distributed attentional systems that include activation of sympathetic nervous system processes (CITE). In other words: We engage in mindfulness in a way which is holistic and targets both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system all at once. 


SMART Koji Zen Mindfulness Practice is based on Zen techniques, which is a more sophisticated version of the Mahayana school of Buddhism. It has been birthed from a lineage of more than 2500 years of the empirical and measurable development. As a background: there are three main branches of schools in Buddhism, the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. In each school, there is a sophisticated absolute form of meditation practices, such as Zen in the Mahayana and Mahamudra practice in the Vajrayana. We have been developing Koji Zen Mindfulness practice based on Japanese Zen practices specifically because it has a very sophisticated underpinnings, but the simplest form to teach. Zen has more than 1500 years of proven developmental history, and can cover both relaxation and arousal effects, depending on the client’s need for sympathetic activation. This simple, adjustable form is easily adaptable for the client’s state level and enables them to practice more frequently. SMART Koji Zen Mindfulness Practice believes that this practice can influence the neuromuscular level using Static Movement but this needs further research to prove it’s effectiveness.  


In the past neither of these hypotheses received strong empirical support, and most of the studies investigated Theravada (Vipassana) style meditative practices and were, therefore, skewed. However, in a study funded by the National University of Singapore, they compared neurophysiological (EEG, EKG) and cognitive correlates of meditative practices that utilize either focused or distributed attention, from both Theravada (Vipassana) and Vajrayana traditions. In their conclusion of cross referencing these methodologies, it became more appropriate to categorize meditations in terms of relaxation versus arousal. This indicates that the classification methods that rely on the focused vs. distributed attention dichotomy may need to be reexamined. 

As this previous research shows, Theravada (Vipassana) meditation, which is the Hinayana school of Buddhism, is effective for relaxation because of parasympathetic activation, conversely, the Vajrayana school of meditation is effective for arousal because of sympathetic activation. 


SMART principles believe that maladaptation of neurons occurs at a neuromuscular level as a muscular reflex. This leads to muscle antagonist co-contraction. A muscle antagonist co-contraction is an involuntary coactivation that leads to problematic physical and psychological experiences in the human body as symptoms and sensations. These muscle co-contractions manifest as symptoms such as: tension in a shoulder or joint, poor circulation and oxygen, bodily sensations such as pains and tightness. By becoming aware of these processes using the two tier approach of mindfulness. We can begin to observe and create pathways into higher level emotive and cognitive functions and thus reduce symptoms in a totality of cognition, from body to conceptual.

bottom of page