Stop panic attacks and anxiety. Feel more ease.
Stop panic attacks and anxiety. Feel more ease.
If you have tried to get past a traumatic event or events, but you just can’t, it is likely that you are suffering from a very real problem called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. If so, EMDR Therapy, when included in an overall plan for your healing, may be very effective for you in overcoming these challenges with less discomfort and in less time than with traditional counseling.
Sometimes our emotional processing systems become overwhelmed by the real impact of trauma. When that happens, our natural problem-solving skills can get stuck, like a badly scratched vinyl record, and we end up experiencing the trauma over and over again, without healing it. We do that in many ways. Perhaps you have some of these symptoms:
These can all be normal reactions when something bad or traumatic happens to you. When your healing system is working the way you want, you can generally overcome trauma yourself, with support from friends and family. HOWEVER, when your own processes are overloaded or overwhelmed, that’s when seeking professional help to overcome trauma is a very wise choice!
When trauma gets stuck, it can affect just about any area of your life and it can be very difficult to overcome on your own. The effects of these hurts can last for a long time and can impact:
At Counseling Services of Portland, our therapists are trained in many effective trauma resolution methods, and research shows that EMDR is one of the very most effective.
If you’d like to try a different approach, please give us a call 503-342-2510 to set up an appointment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach, which means that it is always used as a method in an overall plan to help you make the changes you want. EMDR’s effectiveness has been extensively researched and has been used for around 30 years to help people with trauma make changes more rapidly and thoroughly. EMDR has been clearly shown to be effective in the treatment of trauma and PTSD.
EMDR consists of a set of standardized protocols (or steps) that uses guided eye movement, tapping, or sound to help unlock your own healing resources. Many different approaches are incorporated in EMDR as part of an overall plan to help you make positive changes.
Are you old enough to remember vinyl records? Do you remember when (horrors!) one would get scratched and the needle would skip, playing the same bit of music over and over again? And how you would have to very gently nudge the needle to get the record playing again? EMDR therapy is like that. EMDR helps nudge the places where you’re stuck to start moving again so that your own natural healing process can take place, usually much more quickly than with standard therapy. Indeed, one of the most wonderful things about EMDR therapy is that it feels very natural!
All of this will happen within the context of a of a well established, trusting relationship with your EMDR therapist.
Before starting EMDR treatment, you will learn and practice coping skills and tools so that you will be safe, grounded, and more emotionally resilient as the EMDR treatment starts.
Together, we will work up an EMDR plan that will help you identify negative beliefs and disturbing thoughts, emotions, memories, or physical sensations or beliefs that come out of your past traumas and hurts. We then use eye movement, sometimes tapping or sound, in a very specific, controlled, and planful way to help you move past these limitations, enabling you to break free and live the life you were meant to live, rather than just coping with the past.
Most people respond to very positively EMDR therapy, and find that they are now free from what was bothering them and holding them back. Most of the time, folks just forget to think about the problem anymore. And that is fantastic!
Instead of being held back by your difficulties, EMDR can help you process through, “digest” what is bothering you, and put it in the past, usually much more quickly than traditional modes of therapy.
EMDR helps you put things in your PAST, where they belong, so that you can live more fully in your present and make plans for your future.
The word “trauma” is Greek, and it means “wound”. Trauma happens when a person experiences situations that are physically, emotionally, sexually, psychologically, and/or spiritually damaging. These experiences can leave you with a reduced ability to cope with life, along with feelings of powerlessness and helplessness, anger, rage, fear, sadness, depression, anxiety and humiliation.
You might even blame yourself for the trauma when it was not your fault.
Most of the time, we overcome trauma on our own, without help.
But sometimes, trauma can be severe enough, or mild but repetitious enough (as is the case with ongoing childhood neglect) that our natural capacity to process through the trauma becomes overloaded, and we become stuck with memories, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that disrupt our ability to cope.
When our own, natural coping and healing mechanisms become overwhelmed, it is time to seek help to overcome the trauma and get back on the right track.
Sometimes it can be hard to identify exactly why you feel the way you do, and it can be helpful to talk to an EMDR therapist to help you identify experiences that you may not define as trauma, but that really are, and that hold you back in ways that you don’t want:
Fortunately, EMDR can help you overcome all of these traumas.
About 20% of people are what’s known as Highly Sensitive People (HSPs). Being an HSP is perfectly normal and is an asset in many ways. HSPs tend to be more aware of their environment and more deeply impacted by experiences. High Sensitivity is a gift, not a flaw, and can make people more deeply impacted by the effects of trauma.
Often HSP’s are told (and tell themselves) “It wasn’t that bad, get over it, why are you being so sensitive?” etc. It is important that HSPs do their emotional self-care, and overcoming events that others might not think are that big a deal is one way of doing so. EMDR can be enormously helpful for HSPs to help them metabolize trauma and move on with their lives.
If you are an HSP, it is a good idea to work with a therapist who understands you and has experience working with Highly Sensitive People.
The first thing is to talk with an experienced therapist who practices EMDR. Your therapist can evaluate whether EMDR is the right treatment for you. Our EMDR therapists have extensive training and experience in helping you make this decision.
You may already know that you have PTSD, and you may only have a few of the following challenges. Either way, EMDR can help you. If you experience:
EMDR can help you identify the source of these difficulties help you and resolve them. And with resolution comes:
Don’t worry! It isn’t necessary for you to vividly recall or relive bad or buried memories!
If you are coping with bad memories by blocking them out, this is absolutely normal. It’s what we do to get on with life after something awful has happened. But, eventually, these memories, and the emotional and other effects of these experiences, tend to surface in ways that disrupt our lives.
With EMDR, you should be able to process the hurt of experiences and put them in your past without having to deeply relive them.
We do this by engaging in EMDR therapy while briefly recalling a distressing event. The activity of eye movement, or tapping, helps to move the memories forward and “digest” them without having to relive the experience as though it were happening all over again. We do this until you have little or no more reactivity to the event. It is your EMDR therapist’s job to guide you in such a way that you are grounded and steady during the EMDR processes. It doesn’t mean you won’t feel emotions. It means that you will not become overwhelmed or swallowed by the memories or the emotions you process through. At the end of EMDR Therapy, the goal is to no longer be bothered by your memories. It should feel like, “Yes, that was a really bad thing that happened, but it is no longer hindering me or my life. It’s in the past and I have moved on.”
Your EMDR therapist will be your guide and your guard, keeping you safe and grounded, and collaborating with you in your healing process at a rate that is comfortable and safe for you. In an effective therapeutic relationship, you and your EMDR therapist will make sure your treatment is going in the right direction for you, at a pace and intensity that works for you and doesn’t unduly disrupt your life.
It isn’t necessary for you to remember the trauma for EMDR to work for you. There are many ways that we can approach EMDR therapy, sometimes by focusing on emotions, body sensations, dreams, or beliefs. So don’t worry if you can’t recall anything specific! Together we can decide ways to focus the work that work for you.
EMDR therapy is most effective when used within the context of a solid therapeutic relationship. Building that relationship with our clients is crucial, and that can take a bit of time. We do not want to jump into EMDR until we have a very clear idea of who you are as a person, what your needs are, what your strengths and challenges are, etc. In treating you using EMDR therapy, the length of treatment depends on the depth, duration, and age you were at the time of the trauma, and on your particular life situation, level of sensitivity, beliefs, support system, and other factors.
EMDR has been shown to significantly decrease the length of trauma treatment. After your EMDR therapist has evaluated your situation, she can give you a better idea of how long your process might take.
Yes! We have found, and there is ample research to confirm, that EMDR Therapy is effective for kids and teens. Some modifications may needed to fit the developmental level and particular needs of your child. Your EMDR therapist will be able to talk with you about whether EMDR is right for your child, and what modifications are best for your kid’s well-being and comfort. Be sure your child is working with an EMDR therapist who is also knowledgeable and experienced in working with children and adolescents.
For more in-depth information on EMDR, please visit:
Jonelle Richards, LCSW
In 1994, I heard about this innovative new EMDR Therapy that aimed at decreasing the duration and intensity of trauma therapy. Having worked for several years with adult and teen trauma survivors, and walking with them through the pain of traditional trauma treatment, EMDR sounded too good to be true. But, always seeking tools and methods to help my clients, I decided to learn about it anyhow. Twenty-two years later, I have used EMDR therapy hundreds, if not thousands, of times, to help my clients overcome the wounds from car and other accidents, natural disasters, sexual assault, war, long-term, severe child abuse, chronic illness, and many other challenges. EMDR has helped me help my clients regain their lives without having to undergo years-long treatment and without having to painfully relive the initial trauma(s). For this, I am tremendously grateful.
Tracy Christ, LPC