EMDR and Trauma Therapy

What is trauma?

We often hear people say things like "...yeah, this awful thing happened to me and it still affects me today, but I wouldn't call it trauma - it just doesn't qualify". One giant misconception about trauma is that it has to meet a certain criteria. If something feels traumatic, it's okay to use that label. We don't have to compare our traumas and be on the "winning" side of that battle - the "who has it worse" battle - to benefit from trauma therapy. Of course the big things can cause severe trauma - abuse, assault, loss, war, violence, etc. - however, we often see the seemingly small things pop up even more often.

Naturally, the textbook definition of trauma lists five types of trauma including:

  • Acute trauma: This refers to a single, highly distressing event, such as a car accident or natural disaster.
  • Chronic trauma: This refers to repeated or prolonged exposure to traumatic events, such as ongoing physical or sexual abuse.
  • Complex trauma: This refers to trauma that occurs as a result of multiple, interconnected events, such as growing up in a household with domestic violence.
  • Developmental trauma: This refers to trauma that occurs during critical periods of development, such as early childhood, and can have a lasting impact on development.
  • Psychological trauma: This refers to trauma that affects an individual's mental and emotional well-being, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Trauma goes beyond the textbooks, though. Maybe it was your mom repeatedly pushing you off of her on the couch, leaving you with the impression that you're unwanted. It was possibly the romantic partner that told you one too many times that you're lucky they love you because you're hard to love. Accordingly, maybe you've experienced extreme abuse, witnessed violence, experience vicarious trauma in a helping profession or first responder. No matter your reasoning for seeking counseling for trauma, we're here to help.

Everyone responds to trauma differently, and the type and severity of trauma can have a significant impact on an your day-to day life and overall mental and emotional well-being. We work with you to explore what route we should take in helping you on your journey processing and healing in trauma therapy. If you've experienced trauma, it's even more important that we continuously emphasize that you are in the driver's seat and in control when you're on our couch.

EMDR Therapy

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy that was developed to help people who have experienced trauma, and has evolved to include focus on phobias and anxieties regarding future events. EMDR is based on the idea that the brain can heal itself in the same way that the body does. During EMDR therapy, the therapist guides the client through a series of eye movements or other bilateral stimulation, and the client uses self-guided imagery to process the chosen traumatic event or anxiety provoking stimuli. This is thought to help the brain process and resolve the memories and emotions associated with the trauma or anxiety. The client and therapist prepare for EMDR through talk-therapy and grounding exercises.

There are several potential benefits to EMDR therapy, including:

  1. Reducing symptoms of trauma: EMDR therapy has been found to be effective in reducing symptoms of trauma, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and feelings of distress.
  2. Improving functioning: EMDR therapy may help people who have experienced trauma to function better in their daily lives, by reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving sleep, and increasing feelings of self-worth.
  3. Promoting healing: EMDR therapy can help people to understand and make sense of their experiences, which can facilitate healing and resolution.
  4. Short-term treatment: EMDR therapy is typically a short-term treatment, with many people experiencing significant improvement in just a few sessions.
  5. Non-invasive: EMDR therapy does not involve the use of medications, making it a non-invasive treatment option.

The principles of EMDR therapy are:

  1. Bilateral stimulation: EMDR therapy involves the use of bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, hand taps, or audio tones, to activate the brain's natural healing processes. This is thought to help the brain process and resolve the memories and emotions associated with a traumatic event.
  2. Memory reprocessing: During EMDR therapy, the therapist guides the client through a series of eye movements or other bilateral stimulation while the client engages in visualization regarding the traumatic event.
  3. Adaptive information processing: EMDR therapy is based on the idea that the brain has an innate ability to heal itself and that the therapeutic process helps to facilitate this process.
  4. Positive/neutral cognitions: EMDR therapy aims to help people develop positive or neutral beliefs about themselves and their experiences, which can lead to improved functioning and well-being.
  5. Desensitization: Through the process of memory reprocessing, EMDR therapy aims to reduce the intensity of negative emotions and physical sensations associated with a traumatic event.
  6. Installation: During EMDR therapy, the therapist helps the patient to strengthen and consolidate new, more adaptive ways of thinking about a traumatic event.


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