Trauma (including PTSD)

Trauma, including PTSD

Trauma is about the past intruding in the present. If an event is overwhelming the brain won’t fully process it. The event will become locked in memory, with the thoughts, feelings and sensations that made up the reaction to the event spring-loaded to resurface when the brain is reminded of the event or even implicitly cued by something suggestive of it. This reactivity is the hyperarousal (e.g., hypervigilance or startle response) that goes with trauma.

A traumatized person will inevitably counter states of hyperarousal with numbing and avoidance (sometimes in the form of addiction). The overall condition is one of living in a struggle with one’s mind and body. Particularly so, given that the self leading the struggle is undermined by the negative self-beliefs (say, I am Bad or I am Helpless) that were formed and also locked-in during and in the aftermath of the traumatic event.

I am trained in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Traumatic Incident Reduction (TIR). I am a registered member of EMDR Canada.

Most of my trauma work is done using EMDR, a powerful form of therapy that facilitates a deep processing of the locked memory of the traumatic event.

The client focuses on a disturbing memory, usually following it from beginning to end, while I facilitate eye movements by having the client follow a light moving back and forth (these eye movements are similar to the rapid eye movements, REM, which accompany dream sleep.) This action activates a deep processing that gradually discharges the negative reactions that became fixed in the brain following the trauma. The physical symptoms of the trauma diminish and often completely disappear.

In addition, as the memory of the event gradually becomes less charged, the client’s more adaptive–self-loving and rational–ways of thinking come to interpret the event in more adaptive—self-loving and rational—ways.

A client, for example, who was sexually assaulted as a teenager will not only experience the reduction or resolution of her physical symptoms, she can also come to see, contrary to the belief she adopted after the event, that she could not possibly have been responsible for what was done to her by an adult, against her will, when she was a teenager; and that she showed great courage in the resistance she did demonstrate.

It is important to say that trauma work can be destabilizing for some clients in the short term. I will always help clients develop resources and structures so they are prepared to process traumatic events. I will also pace the work, both in-session and week-to-week, at a speed and intensity which is manageable for the client.

I also use EMDR to work with what therapists sometimes called small T traumas:  life experiences that, not so obviously traumatic, nevertheless generate ongoing disturbance. These small T traumas include grief, bullying, alienation, abandonment, neglect and maltreatment.

EMDR is one of only three existing trauma therapies that have a large body of scientific research supporting its efficacy in treating PTSD  (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder): Also see, New York Times, March 2/12, “The Evidence on EMDR”: