Therapies I Use for Trauma Recovery

I have found Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) to help with trauma resolution and rebuilding a life worth living after traumatic events. EMDR resolves the physical, emotional and mental pain associated with traumatic events. DBT helps people develop skills to cope with unpleasant feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Together they can result in very powerful treatment.

Traumatic events are deeply disturbing and distressing. The degree to which they hurt is subjective and can vary from person to person. Sometimes trauma victims feel like they have no skin; even a small event scares and hurts them tremendously. Their feelings and thoughts may feel out of control, and they can feel quite vulnerable.

Trauma can also leave people with problems getting along with others -- at work, in social environments, with friends, and with family. With their feelings so out of control, survivors might become suicidal or self-injurious (e.g., they cut, burn, hit or otherwise hurt themselves). They can use drugs, alcohol or other compulsive behaviors to distract themselves from how they feel. The traumatic event has created a sore spot that gets bumped into by everyday events; their reactions to the pain might seem out of proportion to the event, to other people.Some people have resiliency because they had trustworthy loved ones who supported them through these events. Other people were not so lucky and develop anxiety, depression, PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and some types of personality disorders. For people who are having a hard time resolving the trauma, I use EMDR and DBT to help them recover from the traumatic events and reclaim their lives.

EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people who have survived traumatic events to recover more quickly and thoroughly than with regular psychotherapy. The EMDR International Association describes EMDR as a “physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.” EMDR is believed to be similar to what happens during dream or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. When we are very upset, our brains do not function normally, so that disturbing events can become “frozen in time.” When we remember that event, it can feel as bad as the first time it happened because the images and sensory information attached to the memory have not changed. It has become trapped in a state-dependent way in our brains, without integration with the parts of our brains that can put the event in perspective and give words to the event. This incomplete processing of the memory can affect how we relate to the world, and can limit our ability to enjoy life.

EMDR can work for traumatic events, anxiety disorders, stress reduction, complicated grief, panic disorder, and phobias. I am a certified EMDR therapist by EMDRIA (an international organization for EMDR) and use it regularly in practice. Clients have been very satisfied with the freedom they've gained from disturbing memories.

DBT was developed by Dr. Marsha Linehan for people who tend toward self-injurious behavior and suicide attempts. Self-injurious means purposely harming one's body in order to relieve emotional pain. Many trauma survivors cut, burn, scratch, hit, bruise, bite themselves, or pick their skin. Some people who engage in this type of behavior suffer from dissociation. The only way they could cope with the traumatic event was to "leave" their bodies mentally and emotionally. This may have helped them withstand the traumatic event at the time, but now it makes it hard for them to inhabit their bodies comfortably. They sometimes cut or self-injure to end the numbness they feel and to re-inhabit their bodies.

DBT teaches coping skills to handle distressing situations. By teaching coping skills, people can create a life worth living and find more functional ways of handling stressors. There are four main skill sets to learn with DBT: Core Mindfulness; Emotional Regulation; Interpersonal Effectiveness; and Distress Tolerance. Core mindfulness teaches people to observe what's going on inside without attaching any particular significance to it. Emotional Regulation and Interpersonal Effectiveness, teach people how to handle their emotions and relationships with other people effectively and successfully. The goal is that they can make better decisions about relationships and how to handle their feelings. Sometimes trauma survivors have trouble with this because they have drastic reactions and impulsive decisions driven by past hurts. Distress Tolerance helps people get through extremely unpleasant or intense psychological experiences through accepting the experience and developing a certain calm reserve in the face of crises. When people learn and practice these skills, they are often able to avoid going to the hospital and stay active and engaged in the community.These skills can be helpful for substance abuse as well, as people tend to act impulsively and compulsively in many ways when they lack the skills to handle painful feeling and thinking.

If you would be interested in experiencing these therapies for yourself and are sick of letting past wounds push you around, I'd love to hear from you! Just call 661-233-6771.