Has a traumatic experience changed the way you live?
Have you ever struggled to move past a gut-wrenching life experience, or perhaps even a vague sense of hurt? Maybe you feel stuck in a life that disappoints you, with the same old pain and fear, the same old sense that something isn’t right. Perhaps, deep down, you feel as though you’re not good enough, worthy or capable of living a better life. If so, such self-limiting behaviours and thoughts may be the after-effects of trauma.
Trauma can manifest itself in a myriad number of ways, including those of flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, and even bodily aches and pains. Perhaps you keep replaying the same disturbing thoughts over and over in your head or you find yourself unable to focus at work. Maybe you’re avoiding the thoughts associated with the traumatic event. Potentially, you’re trying to stay away from anything that reminds you of your trauma which, in itself, can actually be isolating instead of protective. You may experience muscular tension, difficulty sleeping, or a constant state of bodily agitation – like you can never stay still or let your guard down. Living in a state like this is utterly exhausting and you may find yourself crashing again and again. Over time, trauma can even affect your social life and relationships. You can start to feel disconnected from others, or perhaps you don’t feel like reaching out because your trauma makes it hard for you to feel understood.
Trauma changes how our brain responds to danger signals
Sometimes, events happen in an individual’s life and he/she struggles to find a way to integrate that incident. That event can become an unprocessed memory and subsequently become stored in the brain in a “raw” form, creating symptoms that are uncomfortable. Raw form means that this memory contains all physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and images that occurred at the time of the event and have been locked into the brain as a result.
In raw form, it’s incredibly difficult for you to digest what has happened to you. When the memories are triggered in present life, these stored, disturbing elements are then re-experienced in real time and eventually cause the symptoms of PTSD and other disorders. It feels like you’re right there again, which is known as a flashback. These are generally painful, overwhelming and crippling; they are not pretty pictures or nice movies.
For example, fireworks can trigger terrifying memories of a life-threatening explosion, as if it’s real again. A loved one’s casual frown may trigger terror in a partner who grew up fearing that a frown may result in rejection or abuse. Often, the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger, or despair are continually triggered in the present. As such, your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited.
EMDR therapy has been proven, by many randomised controlled studies, to help individuals to identify and process these stuck parts of one’s self so that symptoms can be released. Understandably, this is incredible news for all of us trauma sufferers.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy allows you to recall, process, and move past unpleasant memories. Rather than avoid the past altogether, EMDR helps you to properly “digest” your memories so they’re no longer disturbing to you.
Unlike other treatments that focus on altering the emotions, thoughts and responses resulting from traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the memory itself. EMDR changes the way that memory is stored in the brain, thus reducing and eliminating the problematic symptoms. One of the many upsides of this form of therapy is that it is much less painful of a method than some.
This research-driven approach has been scientifically proven to reduce symptoms of trauma, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. One study found that between 84 percent and 90 percent of trauma survivors no longer experienced symptoms of PTSD after just three sessions of EMDR therapy. Another study, funded by HMO Kaiser Permanente, revealed that 100 percent of single-trauma incident survivors no longer experienced PTSD after six sessions. Now, I don’t expect you to understand the statistical realities of trauma therapy but let me just say that those results are INCREDIBLE, which is why I was drawn to EMDR in both a personal and professional sense.
Many prominent organisations, including the American Psychological Association (APA) and World Health Organisation (WHO), endorse EMDR as an effective form of trauma treatment.
EMDR treatment calms the body and refocuses the brain
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. While many traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not always be processed without assistance. There are many reasons one can become stuck in a trauma response, which is especially painful as you may not even know that’s what happened.
When a traumatic experience occurs, the memories of the trauma are then relived in the form of “stress responses” – harmful physical sensations, images, and emotions that were present at the moment of the original trauma. These stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts.
When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, perhaps of being back in that moment or feeling as though one is “frozen in time”. EMDR therapy helps the brain to process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
The process of EMDR therapy is remarkably similar to what happens to the body when you sleep. During REM sleep, your brain subconsciously files away memories into the correct places. In EMDR therapy, we simply replicate this process while you’re awake and aware, helping your brain reprocess disturbing experiences in a healthy, wholesome manner. To further explain the process, the eye movements we use replicate the eye movements that occur in REM sleep. In this way, EMDR treatment taps into the brain’s natural ability to heal itself. I could be accused of oversimplifying what we are trying to do, but I do hope that you understand the analogy, and that it is close enough to be helpful.
My approach to EMDR therapy is sensitive, empowering, and deeply compassionate
I prioritise your safety and emotional wellbeing above all else. I recognize that each person is undertaking their own healing journey, and that is why my approach to trauma honours your need to feel safe. The truth is that no two people experience trauma in the same way or for the same reasons, and it can of course be empowering to have your experience validated. We will always progress at a pace that you feel comfortable with, building essential safety resources first.
During our initial sessions, I will begin by simply getting to know you so I can better understand your needs and goals before launching into EMDR. Although your treatment deals with painful memories and emotions, please rest assured that it will not re-traumatize you. EMDR doesn’t force you to relive traumatic events, but rather enables you to process them in a safe, grounded, and relaxed manner.
In addition to EMDR, I offer a number of other approaches, including somatic therapies and mindfulness. These have been proven to support the EMDR treatment, making it even more effective. By incorporating somatic therapy, you can learn where you hold tension in your body in order to recognize and alleviate trauma symptoms before they become overwhelming. Somatic interventions aim to eliminate stress responses by addressing issues of bodily tension that add to mental stress. I also use mindfulness, a form of therapy that seeks to calm the mind by relaxing the body. This may be done through meditation, yoga, or focused-breathing techniques.
Working together, we can recover, reconstruct and reawaken your life in a warm, supportive, and non-judgmental environment. We will ensure that you feel supported and capable of managing any emotions that arise when you discuss your experience with trauma. In my time as an EMDR therapist, I have seen numerous people who had undertaken years and years of unsuccessful therapy and only found relief after finally trying EMDR. No matter how stuck you feel, please know that you can overcome your stressors, alleviate PTSD symptoms, and lead a joyful, empowered life.
Let me help you overcome the pain of your past
I have been helping people heal from trauma for over a decade. What’s more, I am a trauma survivor myself, and I can personally attest to the healing power of EMDR. I can say with certainty that EMDR greatly reduced my stress and helped me to conquer my fears and anxieties. If I can do it – then so can you.
If you are ready to experience the same relief yourself and would like to explore how EMDR can help you, I encourage you to book a session with me today.