Your Mental Health Challenges May Be Trauma Related (Is EMDR Therapy the Right Therapy for You?)

Kathy KinghornJennifer SorensenLeave a Comment

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EMDR Therapy May Be The Right Therapy For You

As a trauma therapist, I screen each of my clients for any trauma they may have experienced or may be experiencing.  To my surprise, there are always a few clients who say, “I don’t think I have any trauma,” or “I didn’t really think that event was a big deal.”  The truth is, everyone has some kind of trauma, and it's important to understand what it looks like and how Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR therapy) is the perfect therapy to overcome those challenges trauma can bring.

What is Trauma Really

The EMDR institute defines trauma as “ubiquitous life experiences that have a lasting ongoing impact.” If, we think about how the brain stores information, we can understand that the brain is a network of connections. Memories with similar information (senses, thoughts, emotions, body sensations, and beliefs) are all linked together by their channels of association. Think of your favorite childhood experience. There is most likely an image connected to this memory. When you think of the image, you may feel a certain sensation somewhere in your body. Certain smells, sounds, or positive thoughts about this experience may also take you back. All of these experiences connect you to this one positive event.

The same thing happens in our brains when we experience something traumatic. The problem with trauma is that the traumatic event is physiologically stored in a way that does not allow it to link to any positive networks. As a result, this traumatic information cannot be stored in our brain functionally and so it gets stuck. Because this information is stuck, we end up re-experiencing it, and it’s symptoms over and over.

What Does Trauma Look Like?

Trauma can look like many different things. Most people think of trauma as big events such as war, sexual assault, abuse or neglect. Trauma is all those things, and more. I explain trauma to clients as Big Trauma (Big T) or Little Trauma (Little T). Trauma can include big events and small events. Little trauma can look like the side effects of not making the volleyball team in high school, having a parent yell at you when you didn’t clean your room, or when you were dumped by a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Trauma can be any life experience that has an ongoing impact on us. Maybe it's something we keep getting stuck on. Something that continues to sneak up on us that has a serious impact on our relationships, work performance, social life, and overall mental health. The effects of trauma can take the face of anxiety, depression, feeling a lack of connection to life and people, addictions, eating disorders, and personality disorders.

EMDR Therapy - How Does It Work?

Today, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is endorsed by most psychiatric and psychological associations around the world as an evidenced-based approach to the treatment of psychological trauma and PTSD. EMDR therapy is an 8 phased approach to processing trauma. It begins with a history taking phase which can prepare the client to access the past memory, the current symptoms involved, and everything needed for a successful future. Once the memory is accessed, brief eye movements allow the brain to make needed connections to make the “stuck memory” more adaptive with a healthy resolution. Think of how your brain naturally processes information. It happens at night during REM sleep. During REM sleep, your eyes move back and forth. The eye movements in EMDR tap into the brain’s natural ability to be able to heal itself. During this process new emotions, sensations, and memories can take place, allowing for further learning. The new learning replaces the old maladaptive memory network, and the individual can move on from the traumatic event with more resiliency.

The reason EMDR therapy is impacting so many individuals for good is that people are experiencing relief in their symptoms more quickly than normal psychotherapy sessions. In my experience, individuals who typically would need months to years of therapy to overcome traumatic memories, are seeing relief in 8-12 EMDR therapy sessions. While every client is different, and results vary depending on the traumatic event, the critical thing to keep in mind is that people are experiencing relief faster with EMDR therapy.

Overcome Trauma with EMDR Therapy

No matter how big or little your trauma may be, it is most likely having a negative impact on your well being. Addressing the trauma can be a challenging thing to do, and it might be the bravest thing you ever do in your life. At Therapy Utah with our experienced and trained EMDR therapist, EMDR therapy can help you overcome your challenges with mental health and provide a way to a healthier lifestyle.

About the Author

Kathy Kinghorn

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