TRAUMA COUNSELLING targets negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviours that follow a sudden distressing event, or a prolonged negative experience like abuse. Sometimes these incidences lead to signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Events such as a physical attack, a break-in/burglary, or an accident can bring on symptoms such as:
. intrusive recollections of the distressing event
. changes in sleep
. recurrent vivid dreams of the distressing event
. short tempered
. self-esteem changes (i.e self-doubt, decrease in self-worth)
. feeling numb or empty
. poor concentration
. feeling detached
. needing to be ultra-alert
. avoidance of activities and/or places that arouse distressing memories
. guilty feelings
Similar to talk therapy methods such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an effective approach to treating trauma.
When we experience an event that is disturbing and causes significantly high levels of arousal, our normal system of processing and storing information can get derailed, causing the memories of that event to get stored in a maladaptive way. These disturbing memories, which can include sensory input (images, taste, touch, sight, sounds, smells), thoughts, emotions, physical sensations and beliefs, are stored “as is” in the way that they were experienced at the time of the event. When these maladaptively stored memories are triggered by current situations, they can lead to distress and dysfunction in our everyday lives. Children can also experience trauma and PTSD and EMDR has been adapted to treat childhood and an effective way of treating stress, crisis, and trauma.
How Does EMDR Treatment Work?
EMDR helps the brain to resume normal information processing which allows the disturbing memories to shift to an adaptive resolution. The mechanism by which this works seems to be similar to what occurs naturally during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep in which our eyes move rapidly back and forth. During an EMDR session, the therapist uses sets of eye movements or other bilateral (left-right) stimulations such as hand taps or auditory tones which help activate the brain to process the maladaptively stored material. The client focuses on these bilateral stimulations while also focusing on the disturbing memory. Dual focus of attention is maintained as the therapist follows specific procedural steps and clinical protocols that facilitate information reprocessing.
Treatment Goals of EMDRThe goal of EMDR is to reprocess the memories of disturbing life experiences that are causing the current symptoms so that those experiences can be integrated in an adaptive manner. Processing negative experiences allows us to learn what is useful and to let go of the rest. What is adaptive and useful will be stored appropriately and will be accessible to us in the future and the inappropriate emotions, beliefs and sensations will be discarded resulting in a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, a decrease or elimination of current symptoms, and a shift to an increased sense of self-efficacy. Clients report improvememt as early as one treatment, with no reoccuring distress.
Call or contact me if you have any questions about trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, EMDR, and/or trauma counselling and we can talk about a treatment plan that best suits you or your child.