Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive psychotherapy based on the assumption that within each person, there exists a physiological information processing system which makes sense of and properly stores information and experience in memory networks.
When we experience a traumatic event, this processing system can become overwhelmed, causing the event to become frozen in time. This can occur when an event is too much for an individual to process, occurs too early in development, or occurs over a period of time, such as persistent unmet emotional needs during developmentally crucial times.
The traumatic event then lives on in the individual's brain, with no time or date state stamp, generating negative beliefs and assumptions, and containing all of the sensations, feelings, sights, smells, and sounds associated with the event, as if they were occurring in present time.
EMDR treatment uses bilateral stimulation to jump start the natural adaptive processing system and allow the person to move through the memory and properly store it in the brain. The event can still be recalled, but the emotional disturbance, body sensations, and sensory triggers associated with it are no longer present in a way that drastically impacts present day life.
Attachment Focused EMDR
Attachment Focused EMDR, or EMDR-M, is a modified version of the standard EMDR protocol more suited to treat Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, attachment or relational wounds, and traumas of omission, such as emotional neglect.
While standard EMDR requires having a traumatic memory or event to target, EMDR-M allows for the processing of suffering that may not be attached to a specific memory stored in the brain. EMDR-M provides opportunities for the repair of the key developmental experiences of nurturance, warmth, and safety, or the lack thereof.
Over the past decade, there has been much research on the connection between mindfulness meditation and trauma. Both are concerned with the nature of suffering, both are grounded in sensory experience, and while trauma increases stress, mindfulness is meant to reduce it. So, what could go wrong?
Plenty, it turns out. For trauma survivors, mindfulness meditation can exacerbate symptoms of traumatic stress by asking survivors to pay focused sustained attention to their internal experiences, thus bringing traumatic memories to the forefront, increasing flashbacks and present emotional arousal. Often, this leaves the survivor feeling shame and embarrassment for being unable to master this skill.
However, when practiced with care, mindfulness can be a valuable asset to trauma survivors, enhancing present moment awareness, increasing self-compassion, and strengthening one's ability to self-regulate.
Trauma-informed mindfulness meditation helps to bridge the gap and allows survivors to reap the healing benefits this technique has to offer.
Somatic Therapy and Body Work
Somatic therapy is a holistic approach that emphasizes the connection between mind and body, especially in regard to psychological past. The word somatic is derived from the Greek word Soma, meaning living body. The theory behind this approach is the assumption that trauma symptoms result from instability of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), as past trauma disrupts the ANS.
Somatic practices acknowledge the ways our bodies hold on to past trauma, which is reflected in our body language, expressions, posture, and in some cases, physical symptoms like pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, sexual dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Somatic practice confirms that the mind body connection is deeply rooted, demonstrating how the mind influences the body, and how the body influences the mind. This approach allows the ANS to return to homeostasis by recognition and release of physical tension or discomfort that may remain in the body long after a trauma has occurred. This involves tracking ones experience of sensations throughout the body, and may take place in the form of developing awareness of bodily sensations, learning to listen to the divine wisdom of the body, breathing techniques, physical exercise, and experiments in movement.
Introducing somatic practices into the therapeutic framework helps to reframe and transform negative experiences, either past or present, allows one to develop a greater sense of self and feel connected and present within the body, and builds confidence, resilience, and hope that there can be more to life than merely surviving.
Your body is your best guide.
It constantly tells you, in the form of pain, pleasure, or sensation, what is working for you and what is not.
- Hina Hashmi
Internal Family Systems/Ego State Therapy/Structural Dissociation
Internal Family Systems, Ego-State Therapy, and the Structural Dissociation model all fall under the umbrella commonly referred to as Parts Work. These interventions are built on the concept that our personality is composed of a number of various parts from our subconscious. Parts therapy promotes learning to show loving kindness, compassion, and gratitude to the whole of who you are. Parts work allows individuals to search deep within themselves and find the strength, courage, and inner resources they already possess to welcome all parts of themselves home and fully integrate.
When a person experiences trauma, it is common for that part of self to be exiled in order for the person to continue going on with daily life. Exiled parts often cause conflict, as other parts may use adaptive, yet self-destructive, behaviors (addictions, eating disorders, etc.) to keep the exiled part out of consciousness to avoid feeling the pain that part holds.
Parts work enables people to welcome exiled parts home, find gratitude and compassion for the parts of self who have used adaptive behaviors to cope and survive, and develop a secure attachment to self. Individuals who complete this work often notice an improvement in self-worth, self-love, ability to care for self in all areas of life, improved relationships - making deep lasting connections, decrease in self-destructive behaviors, an overall sense of safety, and the ability to experience joy and pleasure, moving from a space of surviving to a place of thriving.
Your inner child needs a hero, and that hero is the powerful person who stands in the mirror before you.
- Danny Brave
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EMDR could be the right fit for you if . . .
You experienced physical, verbal, or emotional abuse as a child.
You have been sexually abused and/or sexually assaulted.
You were emotionally neglected.
Your parent(s) struggled with untreated addiction and/or mental illness making them emotionally unavailable.
You’ve realized that you’re the child of a narcissist and have suffered from narcissistic abuse.
You’ve been in a physically, emotionally, verbally, financially, or sexually abusive relationship.
You’ve experienced gaslighting from someone you were close to and now find it hard to trust yourself.
You have been in a serious car accident leaving you feeling shaken and unable to resume normal life activities.
You’ve experienced trauma or have PTSD as a result of your work as a medical personnel, first responder, or military.
You’ve been struggling and feeling stuck with feelings of grief from a loss you’ve experienced.
* EMDR is used for more than just trauma. It is is also used for anxiety, panic, specific phobias, chronic pain, and performance enhancement in areas such as athletics and business.