While many of us experience trauma in our lives, for some individuals, it is so far-reaching and systemic that it profoundly affects their psychological, social, physical, occupational, and even financial well-being.
For some, trauma is one life-changing incident. For others, it is chronic exposure to repeated traumatic events. In both cases, traumatic memories can cause a “fight, flight, or freeze” response in the part of the brain called the amygdala. The hyperactivated amygdala creates a heightened sense of anxiety and danger. Even though the original threat may no longer be present, the body responds as if it were. This reaction to trauma is oppressively real. Those suffering from it are hurting and need help.
Untreated trauma can lead to depression, anxiety, addiction, emotional numbness, or other dissociative disorders. But the story does not need to end there. There is hope for victims of trauma. Specific types of therapy have been developed to treat the distressing symptoms of trauma-related disorders. They also work to heal the painful memories and empower trauma victims to move on and reclaim their lives.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a phased mindfulness-based approach to treating trauma. It doesn’t require talking in detail about the distressing issue or completing homework between sessions. Instead, it focuses on changing the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors resulting from a traumatic experience and allows the brain to resume its natural healing process.
To help individuals achieve this healing, we invite you into a safe, compassionate, and controlled space where we ask you to recall the sights, sounds, sensations, and emotions of a disturbing event you have experienced. We then guide you to focus on certain aspects of that disturbing event and allow your mind to float as it accesses the body-mind memory. At the same time, we will have you engage in bilateral stimulation (i.e., eye movements, listening to bilateral beats, etc). The bilateral stimulation helps the brain process memories more adaptively and keep one foot in the present while you have one foot in the past. This lends to a feeling of safety while processing your traumatic memories. The bilateral stimulation continues until the thoughts and beliefs become less disturbing and more positive.
It takes courage to trust this process, and it can be emotionally draining. But EMDR is a well-researched and effective path to healing trauma. It promotes the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution and healing.
When trauma occurs, there are many things in the environment—smells, sights, sounds—that the brain associates with the event or events. When trauma victims encounter these triggers, their brain expects danger, leading to acute fear and anxiety. It’s understandable why they would want to avoid these painful cues. However, while avoidance may be comforting, it actually worsens symptoms over time. Learning how to face and process those memories is the key to healing and integrated living.
Prolonged Exposure (PE) is a highly effective therapy to support individuals struggling to heal trauma. Through one-on-one therapy with a Registered Psychologist, our goal is to help name and acknowledge the painful memories. By exposing you to these memories with care and purposeful intention, we can move together to a point where you are desensitized to the painful memories and emotions that have been serving to re-traumatize you. Desensitization to painful memories allows you to re-engage with your life without feeling the need to avoid trauma triggers.
Through this supportive process, you will begin to strengthen your ability to distinguish safety from danger and decrease your lingering symptoms and begin to re-engage fully in life once again.