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TRAUMA THERAPY & EMDR

Trauma can have a big impact on your life long after the event has passed. We all respond to trauma differently. You may remember vivid images, physical sensations, or re-experience the event in everyday life. It might have shifted how you relate to yourself, to others close to you, and to the world at large. Emotions can become intense and overwhelming. Thoughts about the event may intrude at random or in response to different cues around you. Or, maybe a mix of all of the above. EMDR therapy is widely accepted as one of the most effective ways to treat trauma and its lasting effects. You can rewrite your story and not be ruled by painful memories.

 

WHAT IS EMDR?

Eye movement reprocessing and desensitization – or EMDR, for short – was first developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987. Since, it has become one of the most frequently used tools to treat post traumatic stress (PTSD and CPTSD). It’s an 8 phase, intensive trauma treatment that uses the mind’s inherent capacity to heal to move past painful events. This includes emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, disasters, or combat. Bullying, neglect, discrimination, and other events that have impacted your beliefs and nervous system can also be targeted. It’s been shown to effectively “discharge” material that’s stored in the mind and body in a distressing way – no matter the intensity or time frame in which it happened. You won’t forget what has happened to you, but rather that event will lose the emotional charge that got locked in when the trauma occurred. You can learn more about EMDR therapy here.

Below you can explore how EMDR addresses thoughts, emotions, and body sensations

 

THOUGHTS AND BELIEFS

The way we think is tied to what we believe about ourselves, others, and the world. For example, someone who survived childhood abuse may carry a deeply held belief that they are unworthy, unlovable, and a burden to others. This is like a colored lens that tints any incoming information. Negative beliefs implanted through trauma skew our perception of reality, often in a way that confirms our worst fears. Thoughts are also closely linked to our emotional state and can create a feedback loop of negative perceptions, emotional reactions, and a nervous system response. The sensitivity of this system once helped humans survive, but after living through trauma, it can feel like it disrupts many aspects of daily life. Addressing negative beliefs and instilling positive beliefs in their place is a powerful part of EMDR.

 

EMOTIONS

Rage, despair, helplessness, guilt, shame, and fear are common emotional responses to trauma that may linger long after the event has passed. Being chronically overwhelmed with intense feelings can lead to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and addictive behaviors. On the flip side, it can also lead to dissociation, where you disconnect from your experience and feel numb or far away. All of these feelings made sense when you were enduring something awful, but they may feel out of place in the present. Through EMDR, you will untangle your emotional responses from past hurts and feel more grounded in the current moment.

 

PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

The body remembers separately from the brain. Living through trauma changes how your body responds to stress. This is why it’s so challenging to use logic against a physical reaction. If the trauma continues over a long period of time, or is compounded by multiple events, it can change how your body responds to neutral or non-threatening stressors. This is why people who’ve survived abuse get startled more easily, deal with panic attacks when reminded of past events, or feel fundamentally unsafe in the world – or in their body itself. By naming the physical sensations linked to these traumas, we work together to release the body memory linked to traumatic events so that you can feel more at ease and at home in your body.

 
Image by Matthew Brodeur

By looking at the beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations linked with traumatic events, EMDR works to digest old traumas and store them in a different part of the brain. That way, they can be remembered without being re-experienced. 


If this sounds scary, don’t worry – before we get into reprocessing, we build your resources and coping skills. Getting your feet under you in the present is essential before moving into the past. Along the way, we’ll practice applying these skills to the current triggers and stressors in your life. That way, you’ll feel confident and ready to handle the intense sensations that arise during reprocessing. This gives you a sense of control and choice over your own experience. You don’t have to handle this alone. 


If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy or what our work together would look like, reach out for a free 20 minute consultation