What is Trauma?
Trauma responses can result from directly experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event or after being exposed to multiple traumatic events, over time. These can include, exposure to death, serious injury, or sexual violence. Traumatic events can also include exposure to traumatic details of accidents, death, or collecting human remains that first responders and police officers are often exposed to. Trauma can also include learning about a violent traumatic event that occurred to a family member or close friend. Any of these traumatic events may lead to trauma symptoms.
Intrusive, distressing memories of a trauma can sometimes be one of the most debilitating symptoms. Intrusive memories can interfere with work productivity and steal precious time away from building and sustaining good relationships with our family, friends, and intimate partners.
One treatment that has been shown to be very helpful in processing trauma memories is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR therapy). EMDR focuses on targeting the memory that is presently causing the distress. Intrusive, distressing, and unprocessed memories may continue to pervade your nervous system signaling that something is wrong or leading you to believe you are still in danger. When your nervous system identifies an experience as traumatic, it stores it in your body through negative beliefs, sensations, feelings, and emotions. When one is triggered by a person, place or event, the nervous system is reminded of the past memory, kicking the nervous system into protective mode. This can result in a hyper-aroused state, feelings of anger, overwhelm or panic, otherwise known as “fight or flight” or it can result in checking out or feeling numb.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a mind-body nervous system therapy intervention. The goal of EMDR is to transform the way that disturbing experiences from the past are held in memory and experienced in the present. Following EMDR reprocessing, the memory is transformed. The trauma is remembered, but it feels like it is in the past where it belongs. The experience no longer feels disturbing or activates the mind/body/nervous system. Using a collaborative approach, the therapist and client jointly identify the goals to be addressed, as well as, the appropriate memories for reprocessing.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR reprocessing begins with a series of questions about different parts of the memory that are causing distress. The therapist guides the client to access relevant images, emotions, body sensations and beliefs related to the memory. Using bilateral stimulation (eye movements and other alternating sensory input), free association is deepened and integrated with new, adaptive information that facilitates healing the trauma and resolution.
What if I already have a therapist?
EMDR is beneficial for those who already have a primary therapist and a good working relationship but are finding themselves getting ‘hijacked’ by their trauma symptoms due to triggers that are connected to past events. This constant interruption from the nervous system may be a barrier in reaching the goals of therapy.
EMDR can be helpful for Trauma and PTSD, that are a result of any traumatic event. EMDR can be helpful in addressing anxiety, depression, as well as symptoms related to complicated grief and loss.
Our therapists here at Let’s Talk Psychological Wellness are committed to helping you manage symptoms related to Trauma and PTSD. Call, text, or email us.
Written by Tamar Tenenbaum, LMSW.