Healing from Trauma with EMDR

Healing from Trauma with EMDR

Traumatic experiences are individual experiences – for something to be traumatic it only has to feel horrible to you.  In this way, trauma can include things like lived experiences in a combat zone, real or threatened physical or sexual violence, abuse or neglect as a child, the breakdown of a relationship, surviving a natural disaster or car crash, experiencing bullying at home, school, or work, living through periods of homelessness, receiving horrible news about yourself or a loved one, or witnessing any of the above happen to someone else.  For some, these events would not be traumatic, for others, they would be.  All that matters is how you respond to these kind of experiences.

How do you know if you are coping with a traumatic experience?  Check in with yourself to see if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Flashbacks to the event
  • Intrusive and involuntary memories of the event
  • Disturbing dreams with similar content or a similar emotion
  • Strong physical or emotional reactions to things that remind you of the event
  • Avoidance of certain things that remind of you of the event
  • Diminished interested in doing things you normally enjoy
  • Low or irritable mood, difficulty sleeping, or problems concentrating

 

If you think you might be in need of healing from trauma, one of the ‘gold-standards’ in treatment for trauma is called Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).  EMDR uses the brain’s working memory centres and information processing system to help reduce the intensity of traumatic events.  For a short video on how EMDR works, click here.

EMDR has been rigorously studied and compared with other treatments in controlled trials and has been found to have high and lasting success rates in reducing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related symptoms for both adults and children1-3.  Because of its strong research backing and success, EMDR is endorsed by the World Health Organization, the Australian Psychological Society, the American Psychiatric Association, and the US Department of Defense as an effective treatment for PTSD and trauma-related symptoms.

EMDR treatment occurs in a regular therapist’s office and takes only 8 sessions but should be done with a certified EMDR therapist.  Check out the EMDR Association of Australia website to find a certified EMDR therapist (with appropriate training) near you.

EMDR is not the only treatment available for trauma – there are lots of other evidence-based options out there like Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy, social support groups, lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, and/or medication (see your GP for a referral to a psychiatrist).  Just as traumatic experiences are highly individualised experiences, finding the right treatment for trauma is also a personal journey, so don’t be afraid to try out a few options until something feels right for you.

 

References

1 Cuijpers, P., van Veen, S. C., Sijbrandij, M., Yoder, W., & Cristea, I. A. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for Mental Health Problems: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Available at SSRN 3244037.

2 Lewey, J. H., Smith, C. L., Burcham, B., Saunders, N. L., Elfallal, D., & O’Toole, S. K. (2018). Comparing the Effectiveness of EMDR and TF-CBT for Children and Adolescents: a Meta-Analysis. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma11(4), 457-472.

3 Cusack, K., Jonas, D. E., Forneris, C. A., Wines, C., Sonis, J., Middleton, J. C., … & Weil, A. (2016). Psychological treatments for adults with posttraumatic stress disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical psychology review43, 128-141.