Reflex Integration Therapy
Reflex Integration Therapy (RIT) (also sometimes called neuro-developmental therapy) is a holistic and non-invasive approach that aims to address underlying neurological issues resulting from developmental trauma or stress. This therapy may not suitable for everyone with PTSD or C-PTSD – so please be sure to consult a qualified healthcare professional before undertaking this therapy.
PTSD and C-PTSD are severe and debilitating conditions that can occur after a person has experienced or witnessed traumatic event/s at any stage in life. As a child, our development is like a complex chain reaction, and sometimes, due to some kind of stress or trauma during pregnancy, childbirth or infancy, the next link in the chain can’t be completed and neural connections aren’t as efficient as they should be.
RTI and Neuro-developmental therapies are gentle, movement-based treatments that help to reduce any resulting social, emotional, behavioural, and sensory challenges as a result of trauma preventing the neural connections developing as they should. It’s a type of therapy that works with the central nervous system and brain, giving them a second chance to develop typically if there has been a ‘glitch’ in development.
RIT is based on the idea that trauma can disrupt the normal functioning of the nervous system, leading to a range of physical and emotional symptoms. It focuses on identifying and correcting primitive reflexes—automatic movements that emerge during early development and are meant to protect and support the infant’s survival. The therapy aims to help address the underlying neurological issues that are causing symptoms.
What can RIT do?
- Regulation of the Nervous System: Reflex Integration Therapy works to restore the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, promoting relaxation and emotional regulation. By integrating reflexes, RIT can help regulate the body’s stress response and create a calmer, more stable state.
- Sensory Processing: Trauma can disrupt sensory processing, leading to hypersensitivity or hypo-sensitivity to stimuli. RIT addresses these sensory challenges by promoting the integration of primitive reflexes that play a role in sensory development. As reflexes integrate, individuals may experience improved sensory processing, reducing triggers and sensory overload.
- Emotional Regulation: Reflex Integration Therapy has the potential to impact the limbic system, which is closely tied to emotions and memory. By addressing the underlying neurological factors, RIT may facilitate better emotional regulation and the ability to cope with trauma-related triggers.
- Integration of Traumatic Memories: RIT focuses on enhancing brain plasticity, the brain’s ability to reorganise and form new neural connections. As a result, traumatic memories may become less intrusive and easier to process. By supporting the brain’s ability to adapt and heal, RIT can facilitate the integration of traumatic experiences.
- Enhancing Mind-Body Connection: RIT often involves specific movements and exercises that engage both the body and mind. These activities can promote better communication between different parts of the brain and improve overall brain-body coordination. This enhanced mind-body connection can lead to increased self-awareness and grounding, allowing individuals to feel more present in their bodies and the present moment.
What is involved in RIT?
One of the key components of RIT is the use of reflex integration exercises. These exercises are designed to stimulate the nervous system and help it to function more efficiently. They can include things like balance exercises, crawling, and other activities that help to improve coordination and movement. By stimulating the nervous system in this way, RIT aims to help the brain to process and integrate traumatic memories.
Another important aspect of RIT is the use of sensory integration techniques. These techniques involve using different types of stimuli, such as light, sound, and touch, to help the brain process traumatic memories in a more controlled and therapeutic way. This can include activities like listening to calming music, using aromatherapy, and engaging in art therapy or other creative activities.
RIT is a holistic approach that aims to address some of the physical, emotional, and cognitive aspects of trauma. The therapy must be conducted by a trained RIT therapist who will work with the individual to develop a personalised treatment plan. The therapy sessions usually takes place in a safe and supportive environment, and the therapist will work closely with the individual to help them to feel comfortable and relaxed.
How effective is RIT?
RIT can be a very effective treatment. Research studies have shown that individuals who receive RIT typically experience a significant reduction in symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and avoidance behaviours. They also report improvements in mood, sleep, and overall quality of life.
One study of 134 children directly or indirectly involved in the tragic Sandy Hook School shooting using MNRI Reflex Integration therapy protocol showed marked improvements in a large number of reflex patterns moving from the dysfunctional to the functional range. They also observed behaviour and communication changes. ‘Before at first sessions (February, 2013), many of the children exhibited a posture of withdrawal (eyes lowered and core flexed). They displayed hypervigilance in both their visual and auditory reflexes and exaggerated dependence upon adults. Following the first treatment, we could see immediate noticeable changes: they seemed to grow taller (improved Trunk Extension Reflex), made more eye contact, smiled, and some even joked at the end of the session. The children were also able to witness similar changes in the adults. As one little boy said, “Dad, it is so great to hear you laugh again!”
A further study of RIT reviewed the results of trauma therapy with 79 Louisiana flood survivors when their state was impacted by catastrophic flooding. ‘A team of fifteen MNRI specialists set up Trauma Recovery clinics in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, LA for children and adults. The purpose was to work with the innate reflex patterns activated negatively by stress and trauma that aid in protection and survival and to reduce the reactive work of the HPA stress axis and overloading stress hormones in the body, allowing the neurological system to self-organise and increase resilience.
The survivors of the flood demonstrated dysfunctional reflex patterns in: Core Tendon Guard (trigger for HPAstress-axis), Moro (fight or flight), Fear Paralysis (freezing), ATNR (auditory reactivity), and Hands Supporting (personal space and physical body protection) indicating that these children and adults were experiencing traumatic stress, lowered resilience, and an impaired ability to protect themselves.’ The use of the MNRI method demonstrated improvements in the reflex functions in both the children and adults.
Generally a program of treatment will involve doing daily exercises at home. These exercises are designed to give the brain small amounts of stimulation, which helps it mature and develop. The program typically takes 12 months to complete, but some individuals may need a little longer, up to 18 months. It’s important to remember that NDT is not a short-term solution, as it works with the brain and requires enough time for it to reorganise and grow.
It’s crucial to acknowledge that Reflex Integration Therapy (RIT) for PTSD and C-PTSD is currently not widely accepted or recognised as a mainstream treatment for these conditions. In fact, some individuals may find that RIT exacerbates their PTSD or C-PTSD symptoms. Therefore, it is highly recommended to seek guidance from a qualified healthcare professional or a therapist who specialises in RIT. This consultation will help you gain a comprehensive understanding of the therapy and its potential benefits concerning your unique circumstances and diagnosis.
While RIT shows promise in certain cases, it is essential to remember that more research is needed to establish its effectiveness definitively. We believe it’s important to share information about the therapies that have been studied and shown usefulness in assisting people with PTSD and C-PTSD, to help you make an informed decision.
It’s important to note, that while choosing your PTSD or C-PTSD recovery path you need to address both the symptoms and the underlying condition. NICE guidance updated in 2018 recommends the use of trauma focused psychological treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults, specifically the use of Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) and trauma focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Please remember, these aren’t meant to be medical recommendations, but they’re tactics that have worked for others and might work for you, too. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you.
- Reflex Integration for Post-Trauma Survival and Recovery: Masgutova et al., Journal of Traumatic Stress Disorders & Treatment 2016, 5:5 DOI: 10.4172/2324-8947.1000163
- Neurodevelopmental Therapy Primitive Reflex Integration For All Ages
- What is Neurodevelopmental Therapy (NDT)
- Flood Trauma Survival and Recovery Using MNRI Reflex NeuroIntegration Therapy, Shackleford et al., Int J Phys Med Rehabil 2017, 5:6 DOI: 10.4172/2329-9096.1000439
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Treatments for PTSD
It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.