“Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change that you do choose.” ” — Michelle Rosenthall
award-winning trauma and PTSD author
Gabor Mate’, MD, renowned author, speaker, and expert on trauma, addiction, and the mind/body connection talks about trauma in the following ways:
There are three main types of trauma: Acute, Chronic, or Complex
Examples of traumatic events include:
While some people process these painful incidents, others suffer long-term consequences that affect their well-being.
Imagine you experience an armed robbery in the street. Your nervous system may activate its fight, flight, freeze, or fawn response to protect you. You might try to resist the robber (fight), run away (flight), submit, (fawn), or remain still (freeze/dissociate).
Let’s say you manage to escape and go home. Your nervous system may simmer down as you return to safety. You might be shaken, yet move on after a few days.
But if you don’t process the event adaptively, you may sustain lasting emotional, physical, and mental wounds. Certain factors could trigger the same distressing response (e.g., hearing street sounds or passing by the corner where the robbery occurred).
These persistent effects are known as post-traumatic stress symptoms.
Common post-traumatic stress symptoms include the following and can vary person to person:
If you are experiencing any of these signs or if trauma is preventing you from enjoying your life, EMDR therapy can help you.
EMDR is an eight phase treatment developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, PhD. It’s recognized by numerous reputable organizations, including the World Health Organization, the American Psychological Association, and the National Alliance for Mental Illness. It’s different from traditional talk therapy. You won’t be asked to talk about your experience over and over which can be retraumatizing.
In this structured, holistic treatment, you’ll focus on a distressing memory while going through bi-lateral brain stimulation. This is done by applying a stimulus such as two-way eye movement or body taps, an auditory stimulus such as tones/sounds, or a tactile stimulus such as vibrations. Bi-lateral brain stimulation activates thoughts, emotions, and somatic (bodily) reactions at the same time. This type of stimulation allows the distressing memory to be “reprocessed” and stored adaptively in the brain. The negative effects of the memory become “desensitized” and your problematic symptoms are alleviated or eliminated altogether. You heal and live with freedom you may never thought was possible.
While EMDR was developed to treat trauma and PTSD, it continues to evolve and its applications are diverse. It can be used to bring relief to the following:
I’ll gather your history, discuss the problem that has brought you to therapy, and prepare a treatment plan with specific targets and goals. We’ll discuss any event(s) from your past that created the problem, look at present situations that cause you distress, and focus on skills you need to learn for your future well-being. It’s never necessary for you to discuss disturbing memories in detail. If I were to ask you “What happened that made you feel so afraid?” you can simply say, “I remember being bullied in 6th grade.” I need very little information to identify the target we will reprocess.
We’ll identify and access your target memory in a contained way, including any related mental images, beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations. The idea is to get a baseline of how distressing the memory is in order to evaluate positive change. Negative self-beliefs, for example “I am not safe”, can occur with distressing events and I’ll help you identify what your belief is. You’ll also identify a positive self-belief, for example “I am safe now”, that you would rather have. Next, in Phase 5, we’ll work to increase the strength of this belief so it can replace the negative one.
You’ll focus briefly on your target memory while I lead you in sets of bi-lateral stimulation which can be done several ways. Examples of bi-lateral stimulation are: Eye movements, self-tapping, listening to alternating sounds, hand vibrations using sensors, foot tapping, tapping on a drum, etc. I’ll pause intermittently and ask what you’re noticing about thoughts, emotions, or body sensations. I’ll continue applying bi-lateral stimulation until your target memory is neutralized. EMDR does not take the memory away from you. The goal is for you to be undisturbed by the distressing memory, feel positively about yourself in relation to the memory, and gain understanding and perspectives which will lead to healthy behaviors.
Now that you have reprocessed your target memory and it no longer disturbs you, we’ll work to increase the strength of your positive self-belief and “install” it in your brain. I’ll apply sets of bi-lateral stimulation until you feel the belief is completely true.
Positive self-beliefs are important to well-being. They need to be believed on more than just an intellectual level. After installing your positive self-belief, I’ll ask you to bring your target memory to mind, seeing if you notice any remaining tension in your body. If you do, we’ll reprocess the sensations with bi-lateral stimulation until they are neutralized, and your body feels good in association with the memory.
It’s important for you to leave in a relaxed state at the end of every EMDR session. If needed, I’ll help you apply calming techniques of your choice or make suggestions. Techniques can include mindful breathing, guided visualization, aroma therapy, listening to soothing music, or other grounding practices. We can also talk about the session if that is helpful or talk about anything else that promotes calmness. I’ll brief you on what to expect in between sessions and how to handle any uncomfortable emotions that may arise.
We will start new sessions by revisiting your treatment plan, goals, and progress over time. I want to make sure that your treatment results are maintained. If more reprocessing is needed to give you relief, we’ll discuss that and identify another target memory we can work on.
Please know you will be in control throughout the sessions. If at any point you need to stop or take a moment to regroup, we will do so.
I provide EMDR therapy to teens and adults living in Santa Monica and its surrounding areas (Culver City, Venice, Playa Vista, Pacific Palisades, Malibu, Westwood, and West LA). I also have cutting-edge wireless equipment to offer virtual EMDR sessions throughout California.
As a certified EMDR therapist, I follow a structured and contained approach. Peeling back the onion or talking in detail about your trauma can be triggering. Instead, I’ll ask you to briefly identify and focus on the distressing memory when appropriate. And I’ll spend time developing your internal resources, so you know how to ground and self-soothe if you get overwhelmed.
You are safe here.
Don’t let an unfortunate moment or series of events define your story. Let’s partner up and tap into your brain’s natural healing power.
Call 310-804-5429 or contact me to book a free consultation for EMDR therapy.