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EMDR Therapy for PTSD

Rocks with letters on it of EMDR for EMDR Therapy for PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a debilitating mental health condition that affects some 11.5 million people in the United States per year. Living with PTSD can completely take over your relationships, life, and well-being. Fortunately, there is hope. EMDR therapy for PTSD is an effective treatment that allows you to safely overcome trauma and get back to living your life.

What is EMDR

EMDR — or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing — is a type of psychotherapy designed to help people heal from trauma and other distressing life experiences. It is a type of guided exposure therapy that allows patients to face trauma in a safe environment while learning how to redirect emotional responses to traumatic events and reframe the heightened emotional responses around them.

EMDR therapy has been tested thoroughly and has been found to be effective in treating conditions like PTSD and C-PTSD. In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs recommends EMDR as a safe and effective form of treatment for veterans suffering from PTSD. 

How Does EMDR Therapy for PTSD Work?

EMDR starts with an examination of your past, present, and future. Sessions begin with history taking and asks you to take a look at what events in your past have led to trauma. After the past has been examined, you will be asked to identify what currently invokes emotional distress. By examining events that caused trauma, and trigger a trauma response, you can begin to work toward creating new responses for a healthier future you.

EMDR sessions typically occur one or two times a week, over the course of 6-12 weeks.  Treatment is broken up into eight phases. This phased approach allows you to gently process the traumatic events that you have lived through, and the difficult emotions tied to them. Additionally, having clear expectations about the stages of treatment provides a measure of comfort from knowing what to expect during your sessions.

Phase Sessions for EMDR Therapy

Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning 

During the phase of treatment, your therapist will assess your readiness for treatment. Together, you will work to identify target areas from your past for EMDR processing. You may also identify areas in your present life that cause emotional distress. 

Phase 2: Preparation

The preparation phase is the trust-building phase. Because trauma is an intense emotional experience, you need to be able to fully trust not just your therapist, but also that you will be safe and cared for during treatment. Your therapist will explain the process to you in detail, and give you the tools to help you maintain equilibrium during and after your sessions.

Phase 3 – 6: Assessment, Desensitization, Installation, and Body Scan

These phases are where the work truly begins. During these phases you will be asked to:

  • Recall a visual related to the memory
  • Identify a negative belief about yourself
  • Acknowledge related emotions and physical (body) sensations
  • Identify a positive belief about yourself
  • Rate both the positive and negative associations related to the event

Your therapist will then begin using a technique called bilateral stimulation. This involves directed eye movement, taps, or tones. 

Phase 7: Closure

During this phase, you put the tools you have learned during EMDR therapy into practice. Your therapist may ask you to keep a log for a week, in order to track any issues that may crop up. The log also serves as a reminder of the calming techniques you learned during phase two of treatment.

Phase 8: Reevaluation

The reevaluation phase is not necessarily the last phase of treatment. If you have had several traumatic events or have been living with PTSD for quite some time, together with your therapist, you will work to identify a new starting point. Then you will begin the process again with a new target. However, if you have addressed all targets identified during phase one, you will enter into a maintenance phase — when you are able to fully utilize your learned skills.

What is PTSD

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a condition that is triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic or terrifying event, or series of events, such as war, natural disaster, rape, or bodily harm. Often associated with military veterans, post-traumatic stress disorder can occur in anyone who has witnessed or experienced events that are disturbing or traumatic. 

Women are twice as likely as men to develop PTSD, though it can occur in any age, nationality, gender, or ethnic group. 

Signs of PTSD

Symptoms of PTSD generally start within a month of experiencing a traumatic or terrifying event. However, sometimes the onset of PTSD can occur several months or years after the experience. PTSD symptoms can significantly impact most areas of your life, from work to relationships.

The intensity of the effects of PTSD can vary over time. Stress or other high-intensity situations or emotions can bring the onset of symptoms. However, certain sounds, sights, or smells can trigger PTSD symptoms even without other emotional or stressful circumstances present.

PTSD symptoms are grouped into four categories: intrusive memories, avoidance, changes in emotional and physical reactions, changes in mood and thinking.

Symptoms of PTSD

Intrusive Memory Symptoms

  • Flashbacks (reliving the memory as if it were occurring)
  • Nightmares or unsettling dreams
  • Recurrent memories that are distressing
  • Severe distress or reactions to things that remind you of the event

Avoidance Symptoms

  • Avoiding people, places, or things that trigger memories of the event
  • Going out of your way to avoid thinking about the event

Changes in Emotional and Physical Reaction Symptoms 

  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep; restless sleep
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Easily startled
  • On guard
  • Guilt and shame
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing

Changes in Mood and Thinking Symptoms

  • Feeling hopeless about the future
  • Negative beliefs about yourself, the world, and other people
  • Difficulty establishing or maintaining close relationships
  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Inability or difficulty experiencing happiness, joy, or other positive emotions
  • Feeling detached or numb
  • Not feeling connected to family, friends or loved ones

How does EMDR Therapy Work for PTSD?

The memories of the traumatic events are thought to contain the emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs about the trauma that was witnessed or experienced. Because the memories of traumatic events were not adequately processed at the time they occurred, EMDR for PTSD helps people work through the memory and “retrain” the brain. Over the course of your EMDR work, you will begin to change how and where the memory of the event is stored.

Unlike other types of therapeutic treatments, EMDR therapy focuses on the memory and its sensations and helps to change the way the memory is stored in the brain, which helps to reduce or eliminate the problematic symptoms. Additionally, EMDR provides you with tools to use outside of treatment sessions to address triggers as they occur.

PTSD Treatment in Palm Beach, FL

If you are struggling with PTSD, know that there is hope. EMDR therapy for PTSD is a safe and effective treatment for overcoming trauma and regaining control over your life. The caring and compassionate staff at our state-of-the-art luxurious mental health treatment facility are ready to help you get back to living life on your terms. Contact us today to find out more about our treatment options, including EMDR.