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Trauma Therapy & EMDR

In a safe place to heal, you’ll learn how to permanently reduce the  feelings of being haunted by the past. These may include…

  • panic attacks or feeling as though you’re having a heart attack or can’t breath
  • flashbacks that may include strong sensory or tactile impressions
  • insomnia, or sleeping with the lights or TV on all night
  • brain fog
  • no known medical cause for exhaustion, shakiness and other physical symptoms
  • depression or sorrow for no obvious reason feeling like you've lost all enthusiasm or your sense of humor
  • avoiding certain places, events, or people, including good friends and loved ones
  • phobias and random, quirky, or irrational fears
  • anxiety, worries, or being fretful
  • floaty sensations
  • eating or drinking problems
  • feeling ashamed or guilty

Trauma includes being an eye witness to or experiencing …

  • current, recent or past emotional, physical, or sexual violation
  • childhood neglect, endangerment or abuse
  • chronic tension at home or work
  • car or industrial accidents
  • bereavement
  • natural disasters
  • war

The first step in trauma therapy is to replenish your sense of inner calm. Once you feel safe and grounded, you're taught how to gently process all of the unfinished business connected to the trauma.

During this stage, clients are relieved to discover that while memories become more quiet and clear,  the old overwhelming  emotions, intrusive thoughts, and disturbing sensations fade away for good.

The final  phase of therapy  integrates how one's healing has lead to an expanded sense of  personal identity and growth.

In addition to talk therapy, you may learn EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming) and other adjunctive therapies that promote feeling secure.

EMDR Checklist

Please circle items that have applied to you:

loss of a loved one                                injury                              

hostile work environment                   surgery

guilt                                                        history of abandonment

panic                                                       phobias 

childhood trauma                                 severe illness

physical abuse                                       sexual abuse 

post traumatic  stress                          bad temper

overwhelming fears                              panic attacks

low self-esteem                                     relationship problems

brooding or worrying                           trouble sleeping

injury of a loved one                            betrayal

car accident                                           anxiety

work accident                                        assault

robbery                                                   rape 

chronic pain                                           natural disaster

witness to violence                               childhood neglect or abuse 

victim of violent crime                         trauma

performance anxiety                            depression

stage fright                                            childhood neglect 

chronic guilt                                           chronic shame

Please circle what you want more of from life:

inner peace                                      getting unstuck

more self confidence                      knowing my purpose  and direction

more creativity                               finding a life partner                     

more energy                                    health problems easier to manage

What happens during an EMDR session?

An EMDR session begins with the therapist and client pinpointing a problem that will be the target of the treatment. The patient then holds the tactile pads and follows the therapists’ prompts to tune into the old memory. At first the painful thoughts  surface, but soon the raw emotions fade away and the thoughts shift to fresh insights and a sense of relief.  These include realizing, "I'm safe",  "It wasn't my fault" or “It is really over.” The session ends with integrating the experience by talking about it.

What are tactile pads?

Tactile pads are a pair of small, hand held buzzers. They give a soft vibration that goes back and forth from the right to left hand. 

What is the relaxation response?

The alternating rhythm from the tactile pads activates the parasympathetic nervous system, or the relaxation response. The relaxation response  is triggered just as we drift off to sleep, during a vacation, or in a meditation or yoga class.  This sense of profound ease is maintained  just by holding the tactile pads. When stressful memories  are explored during  an induced relaxation,  painful emotions  dissolve into a sense of calm. Clients typically report that their memories get clear but become unimportant, and that the old anguish disappears for good

How long are EMDR sessions?

An EMDR session lasts from 40 to 90 minutes. The length of the session depends on the type and degree of the trauma, the client’s internal coping skills and more. As with talk therapy, an initial assessment is taken. If one is a good candidate, the next session introduces the micro skills used in EMDR. 

What are microskills?

For EMDR, it is helpful to be familiar with diaphragmatic breathing, tracking physical sensations in your body, being able to rate your sensations and emotion on a scale from 1 to 10, and tracking one’s internal imagery.

What are the advantages of EMDR Therapy?

Its fast

Healing from trauma can be achieved in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional talk therapy.

Its less expensive

Most people achieve their goals in less time and so need fewer sessions.

Less talk

Patients feel comfortable knowing that they can heal without going over  the details of every hurtful memory.  What's unique about EMDR is that there is less emphasis on telling the story. The core of EMDR involves quietly focusing on the traumatic memory while describing the changing physical sensations and emotions that occur. One tracks and reports how the trauma symptoms  shift and evaporate as a sense of peace and clarity increases. 

Spontaneous effortless insight

With talk therapy memories are discussed until new insights emerge. EMDR employs the relaxation response to melt frozen emotions. With EMDR, replacing old pain with a sense relief and freedom is what effortlessly generates more insights.      

If I don’t have problems, can I still use EMDR?

YES! EMDR can dissolve almost any type of emotional block. EMDR builds one’s creativity, focus, and self-confidence. It can energize the work of artists, athletes, actors, musicians, students, public speakers and executives. EMDR works well within the framework of strength-based positive psychology.

How often would I need EMDR Therapy?

One session of EMDR can usually resolve a recent single incident such as a car accident.  Most people need between 5 and 15 sessions. For those with a more severe history and years of bottled emotion, more sessions may be needed. 

Will EMDR re-traumatize me?

EMDR does evoke the targeted memories, emotions and sensations. But the key point is that re-experiencing the unpleasant feelings is safe, brief and controlled. In each session, relief is rapid and permanent. 

What happens between EMDR sessions?

After an EMDR session, it's normal to have a strong sense of ease, clarity, and lightness. Often clients continue to have unexpected insights, feelings, or vivid dreams. This is a sign that EMDR is working.

Is EMDR Hypnosis?

No. During EMDR, one is in a normal waking state.  Clients can open their eyes at any time, are aware of their surroundings, and can withhold personal information from the therapist if they want to.  With EMDR, it is impossible to create false memories, unlike with hypnosis. However, both methods bring repressed thoughts and feelings into awareness so that painful experiences can heal.

What about research on EMDR?

EMDR has been thoroughly researched for the treatment of PTSD.  One study showed that EMDR took half the amount of time and was twice as effective as traditional talk therapy. Another study of patients who were traumatized by accidents, rape, war, loss of loved ones, or disasters found that about 88% needed only three EMDR sessions.

Can anyone practice EMDR?

No. EMDR is a specialized training that requires professional supervision. Practitioners must be either a licensed psychologist, Marriage and Family Therapist, psychiatrist, social worker, or counselor.  

Valerie Keim, M.Ed. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Copyright 2004. You are welcomed to distribute this provided that you credit me by keeping my name on it.