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  • EMDR Therapy: Finally, a Trauma Treatment That Really Works

    You can’t sleep. You startle easily. It hurts to think about certain things or events or people. But you can’t stop your mind from going there. You have flashbacks to memories you don’t want to keep reliving. You may even feel guilty that you cannot control these thoughts. 

    Have you ever experienced this? 

    You may be dealing with trauma that is resistant to more traditional forms of talk therapy.

    You are likely well acquainted with the sinister effects of trauma if you are reading this article. You know how much it can interfere with your ability to live life to the fullest. Perhaps you have tried traditional forms of talk therapy, CBT, or the like. They have helped. But you still feel burdened by negative thoughts and emotions. 

    EMDR Therapy is a newer technique that works for trauma–and its many manifestations. It is also effective at treating many issues and disorders, such as depression and anxiety. It works in a unique way to allow your brain to heal faster and deeper.

    At Fearlessly Inspired Therapeutic Solutions (FITS), we understand trauma. We see how much it can disrupt the lives of our clients. And we have seen how EMDR Therapy can give our clients the tools to confront trauma head-on and overcome it. 

    In this article, we will break down what EMDR Therapy is, what it treats, and how it works, so you can learn more about what it can do to improve your life. 

    What is EMDR Therapy?

    EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It involves moving your eyes in a certain pattern, under the care of a qualified professional, and reprocessing memories and emotions that are causing you distress

    The ultimate goal of EMDR Therapy is to make it so that when you recall negative experiences, emotions, or thoughts you will not experience as much anguish. Those memories will not hold the same power over you. 

    Why EMDR? 

    2 reasons:

    1. It can heal old wounds in a way that traditional talk therapy cannot. 

    2. It really works to help people overcome the trauma and negative thinking patterns that are dominating their lives. 

    How Does EMDR Work?

    EMDR therapy works by helping you reprocess memories while activating both sides of the brain. This is called “bilateral stimulation.” It is usually done by visually following the therapist’s finger from side to side. However, there are all sorts of ways to do this, such as light bars. 

    There are 8 phases of treatment in EMDR therapy. First, the therapist gets an in-depth history of the client’s life. Next is the preparation stage, where the therapist explains what to expect and helps the client to set goals. The therapist and client create a trauma treatment plan. Blocking beliefs, which are negative core beliefs, are also examined. 

    The client then focuses on a troubling memory and discusses the negative beliefs they have developed about themselves. For example, with someone who is struggling with abuse they experienced as a child, that belief might be “I am unlovable.” The client then works to create a positive belief in its place, such as, “I am worthy of love.” The therapist and client then focus on the bilateral stimulation while they discuss how the client feels and where they are experiencing intense feelings in the body. This process is continued until the memory is no longer emotionally disturbing. 

    Each Therapist Has Their Own Style

    While there is a general 8-phase protocol, an experienced therapist has their own style, based on their own experience, skills, and training. 

    If this sounds complicated to you, just remember–it is the job of any qualified therapist to explain the process to you as simply as possible

    History Behind EMDR

    In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro was walking in the park. As she walked, she noticed that her eye movements seemed to decrease negative emotions related to her own distressing memories. She then began to combine these eye movements with different forms of talk therapy. 

    Dr. Shapiro conducted several studies and saw that her technique had a huge impact on trauma where other therapy methods had been less successful. In one study, she found that after just one session of EMDR, 22 trauma patients experienced a noticeable reduction in trauma symptoms, including intrusive thoughts, sleep disturbances, and flashbacks. –APA PsycNet

    Dr. Shapiro founded EMDR Institute in 1995 and went on to train other therapists. 

    Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

    While it is most commonly recognized as a treatment for trauma, it can be helpful in treating a variety of other problems and disorders. 

    EMDR therapy can treat:

    • Trauma and PTSD

    • Depression

    • Anxiety and social anxiety

    • Bipolar disorder 

    • Panic attacks

    • Substance abuse

    • Eating disorders

    • OCD

    • Personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder 

    How Does Treatment Differ?

    The focus is different when using EMDR therapy for trauma versus depression or anxiety. Instead of targeting a traumatic memory, the focus will be on negative self-talk.

    An experienced therapist has many tools at their disposal to meet your needs, whatever they are

    Trauma

    EMDR is most commonly known as a treatment for trauma and PTSD. And trauma has many faces, symptoms, and manifestations. 

    Trauma is a general term, and can be used to refer to: 

    • A single traumatic event–such as a car crash or physical assault.

    • Childhood trauma–a scary, dangerous, or life-threatening event that happens to a child.

    • Complex trauma–repeated, traumatizing events that happen over an extended period of time, often during childhood.

    • Sexual trauma–exposure to any sexually inappropriate behavior that causes distress. 

    • PTSD–Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a psychiatric disorder that can occur when someone experiences severe trauma. 

    Symptoms of Trauma

    In general, trauma refers to a persisting emotional response after someone experiences a distressing event. But it can look different from one person to another. 

    Some common symptoms of trauma include: 

    • Hypervigilance–constant feeling that you’re surrounded by threats. Often this looks like being startled easily or feeling threatened in safe situations.

    • Insomnia–trouble sleeping or staying asleep.

    • Flashbacks–when unwanted memories that occurred in the past are happening in the present. 

    • Dissociation and inability to stay in the present. 

    • Mood swings or difficulty regulating your mood. 

    • Struggling within personal relationships. 

    • Memory loss.

    • Overwhelming guilt or shame.

    • Trouble concentrating.

    • Nightmares or night terrors.

    • Confusion. 

    The effects of trauma are many and varied. But If you are experiencing 1 or more of these symptoms, there is a good chance you are dealing with trauma. It is important to remember–you have done nothing wrong, and you have come to the right place, because EMDR Therapy can help. 

    Meet with an experienced trauma therapist to form a treatment plan that is right for you

    Why EMDR Over Other Therapies

    Other common forms of therapy (such as CBT, DBT, or psychodynamic) can be effective. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), for instance, the method involves looking at how thoughts and emotions drive behavior. However, it can take longer to see results from CBT. And when trauma is involved it can be hard to discuss thoughts and emotions. 

    In EMDR Therapy, your brain is doing the work. It is unique in that way. It allows you to dive into areas of the brain that are often inaccessible through other techniques. This means you tend to see faster results.  

    “How quickly will I see results?” 

    It’s time for everyone’s favorite answer: it depends. No one can give a definite answer about this. Treatment differs from person to person. 

    However, at FITS we have seen amazing results from EMDR in just a few sessions. We have seen people’s perspectives and behaviors completely shift. We have seen clients come in frightened, unable to make eye contact, and unable to discuss their experiences and problems. And in just a few weeks they can talk about it openly. Now many of those clients actually look forward to their sessions, because they feel equipped to approach the roadblocks in front of them. 

    THAT is why we believe in the power of EMDR Therapy. 

    Does EMDR Really Work? 

    All this talk of eye movement can make a skeptic out of anyone. You may very well be asking– does it really work? 

    In a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH), a group of patients diagnosed with PTSD experienced an 84% remission in their PTSD diagnosis after just 3 sessions. NIH

    Another review conducted by Frontiers Psychology Journal found that over 75% of patients treated with EMDR experienced a noticeable decrease in their symptoms, which included insomnia, anxiety, and mood swings. 

    So–Does it really work? YES!

    What Does it Mean to be EMDR Trained? 

    It can be easy to get confused by all the various names and titles for therapists and counselors. Many practitioners are not actually “EMDR Trained” or “EMDR Certified.”  

    Some common titles include: Level 1 and 2 training, EMDR-informed, EMDR trained, and EMDR Certified

    So–What is the difference? 

    Simply put, “level 1 and 2 training” are outdated titles that essentially mean someone has gone through the basic portions of the EMDR training prior to 2007. 

    Being “EMDR informed” just means that the therapist has a basic understanding of what it is, but has not undergone any actual training. 

    Having an EMDR Trained Therapist Means:

    • Your therapist has completed the EMDR basic training.

    • Your therapist has completed at least 10 additional hours of consultation.

    • Your therapist stays up-to-date with trainings 

    So, when you’re on the lookout for an EMDR therapist, keep in mind that “EMDR Trained” and “EMDR Certified” mean that they have the most experience. 

    What to Look For in an EMDR Therapist 

    When looking for the right therapist, there are a few things to consider:

    • EMDR Trained or EMDR Certified (they have the most experience!) 

    • Has been a practicing trauma therapist for at least 5 years, and practicing EMDR for at least 1 

    • Has experience using EMDR Therapy related to your particular problems, issues, or concerns 

    Finally, a Treatment That Really Works for Trauma

    If you want to:

    • Sleep better at night

    • Be less afraid to leave your house

    • Improve your perception of yourself

    • Struggle less in your personal relationships

    • Not be overwhelmed by flashbacks, negative thoughts, or daily reminders of your trauma

    …then give EMDR Therapy a try! 

    FITS is an EMDR Practice in Maryland and DC

    Hi, my name is Laryssa Creswell. I am an EMDR Trained therapist at FITS who treats clients in Maryland and DC. For 2 decades I have been treating clients for moderate to severe trauma, depression, and anxiety. I specialize in working with women, teenage girls, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

      

    My approach is unique because I meet my clients where they are emotionally —and create a treatment plan with them to address their specific needs. 

    I treat people with various types of trauma, along with trauma’s “sister diagnoses,” such as depression and anxiety. Together, we can create a treatment plan to address your obstacles head-on and overcome the past experiences and negative thought patterns that are stopping you from living a full life. 

    For a free 15-minute consultation, contact us today or call our office at 301-750-1065