Does It Feel Like Your Life Is Dictated By Your Past?
Have you ever found yourself at a loss for the out-of-character way you’re acting, with no explanation for your behavior?
Do you feel like you’re trapped in the past because early traumatic experiences still affect your life to this day?
Perhaps you frequently deal with overwhelming, intense emotions that are disproportionate to the situations at hand. These are key signs that you’re experiencing traumatic reenactment. For instance, your significant other or close friends might forget to complete a task or chore and you react with rage, disappointment, and sadness; or you completely shut down. As a result of an unintentional mistake on someone else’s part, you feel alone, unheard, and unseen.
Trauma Symptoms Can Come Up Out Of Nowhere
Maybe these intense feelings and reactions occur often, but for no apparent reason. These reactions, however, are key signs of unprocessed memories. When triggered, they may cause you to overreact in damaging ways towards yourself and those around you.
You are likely a very competent person in your day-to-day life, yet you’re simply unable to wrap your head around why certain behaviors keep reoccurring. But you are not the problem. Your brain has encoded your past trauma, or traumas, in a disorganized way, making it practically impossible to put the puzzle together without professional help.
Luckily, treatment for trauma has come a long way. Today, the right therapist can provide a streamlined and compassionate approach to identifying and addressing painful traumatic memories.
You’re Not Alone In Your Traumatic Experiences
It is easy to forget just how many people have lived through traumatic experiences. We are often fooled by the “perfect” images on social media that depict happy people who appear to have their whole lives figured out.
The society we live in encourages us to get back to work immediately after experiencing a significant loss, like the death of a loved one, a miscarriage, or a divorce. And we’re expected to simply bounce back after physical trauma, such as surviving a car accident or shooting, living through a natural disaster, or experiencing medical trauma, among an endless list of life’s tragedies.
Trauma Is Widespread In Our Society
Many people also suffer from trauma as a result of sexual assault and domestic violence. Our brains and bodies are programmed for healing and survival. We instinctively develop anticipatory patterns that are meant to protect us against dangers we have experienced in the past. Depression, hopelessness, flashbacks, fears, and phobias can be viewed as survival strategies for adapting to chronically stressful situations.
Through therapy, you learn to understand your trauma symptoms and their effects on your life. You can become your own trauma expert and stop blaming and berating yourself.
Trauma Therapy Can Help You Move Forward
Since we understand that you may be nervous about sharing the most difficult experiences of your life with a therapist, we will not encourage you to talk about your trauma in your first session. A good trauma counselor knows this can be re-traumatizing.
Our therapists are familiar with the science and research of traumatic memory and the impact of trauma on mind and body. They will explain possible treatment avenues for addressing your trauma and the science behind these methods in an easily digestible way. With a deeper understanding of the physical and psychological impacts of trauma, you’ll gradually be able to let go of self-blame.
What to Expect in Trauma Therapy Sessions
In session, you will learn to better recognize and cope with internal cues, such as body sensations, emotions, and thought patterns. Sensing, naming, and identifying what you are experiencing is the first step to recovery. Next, your therapist will help you develop stronger resources for dealing with triggers. And finally, you’ll begin processing your trauma using an evidence-based approach like Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR).
Although this may sound overwhelming, please know that you have agency throughout this whole process so that healing can occur at your own pace. You will be listened to every step of the way. Your therapist is simply a compassionate guide, helping you navigate the process of recovering from trauma.
How Does EMDR Support Healing From Trauma?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a streamlined approach to trauma counseling. EMDR can help you cultivate a sense of safety and emotional stability by addressing debilitating symptoms such as suicidality and substance abuse. This safety also entails strengthening internal resources through positive visual imagery, mindfulness, deep breathing, and grounding through our five senses.
Another important element of EMDR is helping you to achieve dual awareness while talking about your trauma. This simply means that you’ll become comfortable with objectively talking about your traumatic memories without being re-traumatized by them in the present. Restructuring unhelpful beliefs into adaptive thought patterns and reframing the past is also an important element of EMDR. In sessions, you will be given the tools to master these important skills.
But You May Still Have Some Questions About Trauma Therapy…
If I start trauma therapy, will I begin EMDR sessions right away?
Although EMDR can be a highly effective form of trauma therapy for many people, we still create individualized treatment plans for each of our clients. Therefore, we do not always use EMDR as an initial treatment or view this modality as a cure-all. Our therapists also utilize other treatment approaches, such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, to alleviate symptoms.
Our therapists will first assess your situation to determine if you’re a good fit for EMDR based on your life experiences, current stressors, support system, and coping skills. The timeline for this process will vary for each individual client. Even if our trauma therapists feel that you will benefit from EMDR, your counselor will work with you to evaluate when you are emotionally ready to begin the process.
We take this approach to ensure that the EMDR process is not only effective but also a positive experience for our clients. We have had many clients come to us to process additional trauma after being pushed through a "speedy" or "one-size-fits-all" EMDR treatment plan. Unfortunately, some therapists begin EMDR with new clients immediately and tell them that they will only need a minimal number of sessions to work through one specific traumatic memory. If a therapist takes this approach, their clients are not being properly assessed or prepared for the EMDR process, and they may not have the needed skills to manage their emotional response outside of the sessions.
Will EMDR worsen my trauma symptoms?
Your first few EMDR sessions may be challenging, but in the long term, this process is emotionally freeing. It’s a bit like pulling off a Band-Aid. At one point, you needed a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding; however, if you leave a Band-Aid on for too long without removing it, you can end up with an infection.
The same principle is true for trauma symptoms. You’ve likely placed some short-term “fix” on your trauma, such as denial or repression. Processing your trauma means that temporarily, you’ll feel the emotional pain, rather than running from it. But you will not go through this pain alone, and you will not experience it as you did in the past. Now, you’ll have an experienced therapist as your guide, and you will have valuable resources that were not available to you at the time the trauma occurred.
Addressing the past means becoming unstuck, moving forward, and finally correcting misinformation and erroneous beliefs. Ultimately, you are in charge of the experience. Your therapist is listening, trusts you, and will support you.
Can I complete EMDR sessions through online counseling, or do I have to come to the office?
We do offer EMDR through secure video sessions. And we allow all of our clients to choose which approach is more comfortable for them, be it online or in-office. If you choose to pursue online therapy, please ensure that you have a strong internet connection as well as a safe and private location to participate in your sessions.
You Can Reclaim Your Life Through Trauma Therapy
If you would like to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions you may have about trauma therapy or EMDR, please contact us. You can reach our office at (760) 566-5516.
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