Is your life dictated by your past? Do you find yourself at a loss of words for the out of character way in which you may act at times?
A key sign that traumatic re-enactment is happening, usually entails experiencing overwhelming intense emotion that is disproportionate to the situation at hand. Your significant other or close friends may have forgotten to complete a task or chore and your experience may be that of rage, disappointment, sadness, or complete shut-down. The underlying theme here may be feeling alone, unheard, and unseen.
These intense feelings and reactions may occur often and may be experienced as happening for no apparent reason. These reactions, however, are key signs of unprocessed memories, that when triggered, cause us to over-react in damaging ways towards ourselves and those around us.
You are likely a very competent person, but simply unable to wrap your head around why certain behaviors keep re-occurring. You are not the problem, your brain has encoded the trauma, or traumas, in a very disorganized way, making it practically impossible to put the puzzle together without professional help, such as individual trauma therapy.
Luckily, treatment for trauma has come a long way and there is a very stream-lined and compassionate approach to identifying and addressing painful traumatic memories.
You can be your own trauma expert. Once you understand traumatic effects and symptoms, you can stop blaming and berating yourself.
It is easy to forget the magnitude and presence of lived traumatic experiences among us. We are often times fooled by images on social media that depict shiny happy people that appear to have their whole lives nicely sorted out. We live in a society that encourages us to get back to work after losing a loved one, experiencing a miscarriage, experiencing the suffering and pain of our families being torn apart through divorce, experiencing a car accident, surviving a natural disaster, surviving a shooting, experiencing a medical trauma, among an endless list of life’s tragedies.
You are not alone in the trauma that can occur over a lifetime. One in five women and nearly a quarter (24.8%) of men in the United States have experienced completed or attempted rape during their lifetime.* One in four women and one in ten men experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime.*
Our brain 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, phobias can be viewed as survival strategies. Each symptom represents a way that our brain and body have adapted to a chronic condition of threat.
How trauma therapy can help?
A skilled trauma therapist knows that allowing you to immediately share your trauma on the first session, is actually greatly discouraged and in fact, can be re-traumatizing. A trauma specialist is familiar with the science and research of trauma memory and the impact of trauma on mind and body. As a result, a good trauma therapist will first focus on making you aware of this incredible available research and science, in a way that makes sense to you, so that you no longer blame yourself, and so that you no longer feel alone.
In therapy, you will learn to be more masterful at recognizing and coping with internal cues, such as body sensations, emotions, and cognitions. Sensing, naming, and identifying what you are experiencing is the first step to recovery. Developing more internal resources is the second step, and finally processing the traumas using a highly researched approach like Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), will be the final step towards healing. Although this may sound overwhelming, please know that you are in charge of your treatment. Treatment 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 and healing you from trauma.
What is EMDR?
In a nutshell, Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a very streamlined approach to trauma. Primary elements to EMDR include creating safety through stabilization of disturbing symptoms such as suicidality, substance abuse, medical conditions, etc. 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 achieving dual awareness while talking about one’s trauma. This simply means being able to objectively talk about the past without being sucked into it or traumatized by it in the present. In session, you will be given the tools to master this very important skill. Restructuring and reframing the past is also an important element of EMDR, whereby unhelpful beliefs are restructured in a more adaptive way.
How soon can I start EMDR?
Although EMDR is a highly structured form of treatment, we still create individualized EMDR treatment for each of our clients. One way we do this is by not using EMDR as an initial treatment or viewing EMDR as a cure all. Please expect that our EMDR therapists will first work with you to assess if you are a good fit for EMDR based on your overall life, current stressors, support system, and coping skills as they utilize other treatment approaches (such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) to reduce symptomology. This process will take a different amount of time for each client. Please know that it may be decided that EMDR may be beneficial in your life, however your therapists will still work with you to determine when you are mentally and emotionally ready to begin the process.
We take this approach to help ensure that the EMDR process is not only beneficial but also positive. We have had many clients come to us to process the trauma of going through "speedy" or "one size fits all" EMDR. These approaches can be seen when a therapist tells a client that they will only need a very specific and small number of sessions to work though one specific trauma, such as 6-10 sessions, then begins EMDR immediately. This may often mean that you are not being assess or prepared for the EMDR process and may not have the needed skills to manage the emotional response outside of the sessions.
Will EMDR make things worse?
This is a very common and valid question. The short answer is yes, but please do not get discouraged. Let’s think of the metaphor of pulling a band-aid off. The band-aid was at one point needed, to stop the bleeding; however, if we leave the literal band-aid on without ever attending to it or removing it at some point, an infection or worse will likely occur. This is true for trauma. You likely have placed some temporary fix on your trauma, such as denial or repression. Processing your trauma will mean that you will feel the emotional pain, rather than run from it. You will not go through this pain alone. More importantly, you will not experience it as you did in the past. You now have a therapist as a guide, and you now have resources that were not available to you at the time the trauma occurred. Addressing the past means becoming unstuck, moving forward, correcting misinformation and erroneous beliefs. Also, you are in charge. Your therapist is listening, trusts you, and will support you.
Can I do EMDR through online counseling or do I have to come to the office?
Yes, we do offer EMDR through secure video sessions. We allow all of our clients to choose which approach is more comfortable for them, be it online or in office. We do however want to ensure that if you choose online therapy sessions that you have strong internet connection as well as a safe and private location to participate in your sessions.
You are capable of reclaiming your life!
If you would like to schedule an appointment or discuss any questions you may have about EMDR, or therapy in general, please contact us. We are available at (760) 566-5516.
Meet our trauma (EMDR) treatment specialists: