Trauma has been a catchphrase in our profession for the last 3 or 4 years that I can remember. Every few months, someone comes out with a new theory about why we experience trauma, how to treat trauma, and if someone has trauma at all. Now, suppose someone needs a diagnosis related to trauma such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). In that case, I can pull out the diagnostic bible (The DSM-5), ask a list of questions. If you fit within the scope of that specific diagnosis, then a diagnosis you shall have.
I never want to discredit the ability to use a diagnosis to treat someone. However, I would like to think of a person as more than a just list of criteria that is then treated with an approved list of techniques. This is a long way of saying I have studied trauma backward and forwards and become familiar with the methods used to treat trauma. There is no one way to treat trauma, nor one definition that can encapsulate trauma's ability to grind its way into our marrow and leave us feeling vulnerable, scared, numb, or just crazy.
How Trauma Looks in Our Lives
Instead of defining trauma, let me talk about how it shows up in our lives. Has something happened to you that you feel left a scar that won't wash off in your life? Do ordinary everyday things remind you of that scar and make you want to run away from it, but your feet are glued to the ground? Do you have tremendous anxiety thinking about what might happen to trigger those feelings? Flashbacks and dreams keep reminding you of that scar. These are a few examples, but I think you get the point. Trauma is individual to individual. The primary tools I use for treating trauma are talk therapies in conjunction with EMDR. So, what is EMDR?
Francine Shapiro developed EMDR or Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing in the late '80s and, since that time, has become the most researched and validated trauma tool used today. There is debate on the precise mechanism that relieves PTSD symptoms, but in my personal experience both as client and therapist, I have seen it work tremendously well. I won't use this format to give a lengthy explanation around EMDR, especially when Google is one click away. I will instead talk in generalities.
How EMDR Works
Every day, experiences are processed and stored in the brain, usually by association. According to the association, new memories are eventually stored in long-term memory and then called up. When something horrible happens, the image goes in, the brain has no idea what to do with it, and it isn't processed. Now it's ever ready to be pulled up by sight, smell, taste, sound, or our dreams. EMDR is a way of, in a safe, controlled environment, pulling up the memories, using bilateral stimulation, processing the memory, and pulling it away from being readily activated. The bilateral part can be the therapist asking you to think about the incident and moving a finger in front of your eyes or using a device that vibrates in your hands. Either way, over the course of a few sessions (usually 4 to 6) together, we put the trauma in its proper place—the past. EMDR also works tremendously well on chronic pain, anxiety, and enhancing performance, such as public speaking, due to how the brain processes.
At Mind Works Counseling in Lubbock, Texas, we have therapists who are trained, educated, and ready to help you sort through the mess that is trauma and get you to a place where you can strive and thrive!
Learn more about the EMDR and Trauma Counseling services we offer.
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