Why EMDR is a Helpful Treatment for Sexual Abuse Survivors

In the United States, one in three women and one in six men will experience some form of sexual abuse in their lifetime, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC). When sexual abuse happens, many people don’t know how to cope with the event or express their feelings in a healthy way. The result is a life of feeling fear and shame as well as experiencing depression and anxiety. NSVRC reports that 81% of female victims and 35% of male victims will develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

What is EMDR and How Can it Help?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a psychotherapy technique that has been successfully used to treat people who suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, and other emotional issues. Before EMDR, these issues would be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy alone. While this treatment can be successful, it often takes many, many sessions for maximum relief.

EMDR, on the other hand, has been considered a breakthrough modality because it can bring quick and lasting relief from a variety of emotional distress.

When we experience trauma, such as sexual abuse, the natural coping capacity of our brain becomes overwhelmed and we experience the symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Through EMDR therapy, people can reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disturbing to them or disruptive to their lives.

What is a Typical EMDR Therapy Session Like?

While EMDR will use an integrative approach to therapy, it also focuses on some unique techniques. In particular, the patient will perform a series of lateral eye movements while, at the same time, focusing on various aspects of the traumatic memory.

These left – right eye movements form a “bilateral stimulation. The therapist may use other bilateral stimulations including alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the patient’s hands.

It is believed that EMDR induces a fundamental change in the circuitry of the brain, similar to what happens during REM sleep. This helps people integrate and understand memories within a larger context of their own life experiences.

But EMDR is more than a set of techniques. It is a way for all people to understand their own human potential. Beyond the reprocessing of traumatic events, EMDR also allows individuals a glimpse of any limiting false beliefs they may be holding onto, such as “I’m not good enough.”

In this way the therapy not only helps people move through big, traumatic events in their past but also smaller chronic ones that color their perception of themselves their world. This can ultimately lead to significant positive change in their lives.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual abuse and is interested in exploring EMDR treatment, please be in touch. I would be happy to discuss how this technique may be able to help you.

 

 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201303/trauma-childhood-sexual-abuse

https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/complex-trauma-emdr-can-help-but-its-no-quick-fix-0425165

https://www.emdrhap.org/content/what-is-emdr/

 

What Is Trauma and What Causes It?

Most of us won’t get through life without our own fair share of stress and heartache. But some people experience not just stress, sadness or grief, but actual trauma. This can be from events like being involved in a bad car accident, rape, a natural disaster, or war.

The result of experiencing such events is called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition where the mind is unable to process the event as it processes ordinary life events. The result is a brain that misfires information, causing the person to live much of their life distressed, as if the event were still happening to them.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are many symptoms associated with PTSD, but the most common ones are:

• Nightmares
• Flashbacks
• Psychological and physiological distress at reminders
• Avoidance of internal and external reminders
• Dissociative amnesia
• Negative beliefs about oneself and the world
• Distorted blaming of oneself
• Negative persistent emotional states
• Loss of interests
• Detachment from loved ones
• Hyper vigilance
• Exaggerated startle response
• Difficulty concentrating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Irritability or outbursts of anger
• Self-destructive or reckless behavior

Causes of PTSD

Researchers are not altogether clear on why some people experience PTSD and others don’t. What makes one soldier come home from war with PTSD and another one not develop the disorder?

The best we can guess is that development of PTSD is likely from a combination of complex factors such as neurological, stress, life experiences, personality, and genetics. It is also worth mentioning that pre-traumatic psychological factors (low self-esteem, for example) may increase the risk factor for developing PTSD.

How Can Trauma be Treated?

The most common form of treatment for PTSD is something called cognitive behavioral therapy. This kind of therapy involves meeting with a specially-trained therapist over a number of sessions to learn strategies and techniques that will reduce and/or eliminate symptoms of PTSD such as recurring thoughts, emotional numbness, sleep issues, and concentration problems. Beyond finding a trained therapist, it’s important to find one you and your family feel comfortable with, so make sure to interview a few candidates to see who might help you on your journey to wellness.

If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and would like to explore treatment options, please be in touch. I would be more than happy to see how I may be able to help.

How Meditation Can Help Manage Symptoms of Trauma

Meditation offers practitioners powerful benefits, yet many people are confused as to what exactly those benefits are. In a nutshell, meditation focuses attention in a deliberate manner, taking you from a state of noisy mental chatter to calm and quiet inner peace. And isn’t that something most of us could use?

While meditation has been practiced for thousands of years in the east and – more recently – west as a way to grow spiritually, modern medicine is now finally extolling the numerous health benefits that meditation offers.

Meditation has the ability to reduce stress hormones by calming the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. These systems are what activate our main panic responses (“fight,” “flight,” “freeze,” or “friend”) to stressful situations. Because of this, meditation can be a wonderful coping strategy for those suffering with trauma.

Is Meditation Better than Medication

Historically, people battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been given medication to help alleviate unwanted and unpleasant symptoms. But a new study has found that regular practice of meditation enables some active duty service members battling PTSD to reduce, or even eliminate their need of psychotropic medications and to better control their often-debilitating symptoms.

This is great news for service men and women, and anyone who is battling PTSD. Not only can meditation help to calm your nerves and rewire your brain, it can also reduce the risk of developing negative side effects to many psychotropic medications used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders. Beyond memory loss and erectile dysfunction, one of the biggest side effects of these medications is depression. That’s the last thing a person suffering from PTSD needs.

How to Begin a Meditation Practice

If you are suffering from the effects of trauma and would like to try meditation, here are some steps you can take to get started:

Find a Group Practice

If you’re completely new to meditation, you may want to join a group meditation course that meets every week. You can usually find groups in your local area through online communities such as Meetup.com.

Be Open Minded

Meditation has long been associated with new age movements. But you would be amazed at the different kinds of people that now practice meditation. If you tend to be a skeptical person, try to have an open mind as you begin your practice.

Be Patient

It’s called a practice for a reason. You won’t “get” meditation overnight. You’ll have to keep at it before it becomes natural for you and you really reap the benefits. Try to have patience and just keep at it.

 

If you or a loved one are suffering from trauma symptoms and would like to speak with someone who can help, please get in touch with me. I’d be happy to discuss the treatment options that would work best for you.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201601/meditation-reduces-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-symptoms

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201306/how-does-meditation-reduce-anxiety-neural-level

https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/01/13/transcendental-meditation-shown-to-ease-veterans-ptsd/131167.html 

When to Worry: Recognizing Signs of Trauma in Your Loved Ones

Over the past several years, there have been numerous traumatic events all across the country. From incidents of mass violence to devastating natural disasters, hundreds of thousands of Americans have experienced or witnessed a disastrous or life-threatening event. In addition to tragedies such as these, anyone who has experienced a shocking or dangerous incident (such as a car accident or a robbery) is at risk of developing Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is a serious mental disorder that requires medical treatment. PTSD can have devastating effects on every aspect of a person’s life, from their marriage and family, to their friendships and career. If you’re concerned that a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Trauma

Someone with PTSD will have repeated, involuntary re-experiences of the event. They may experience bad dreams or flashbacks. They’re also vulnerable to certain triggers that remind them of what happened, such as sounds or smells.

Angry Outbursts

Someone silently suffering from trauma may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. Feeling irritable, the sufferer may be prone to outbursts of anger that they can’t control. If you’ve noticed your loved one frequently losing control and lashing out in anger, this is a sign that they’re suffering emotionally and require treatment.

Withdrawal

People suffering from PTSD will avoid people and situations that are reminders of the situation. As the victim continues to isolate themselves, how their friends and family react to their withdrawal will likely further isolate them, causing additional emotional distress.

Substance Abuse

It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to self-medicate. Seeking an escape from high levels of stress and difficult emotions, they may turn to drugs or alcohol. The painful trademark of substance abuse is the growing need for more of the drug to produce the same high. If left untreated, as substance abuse grows, the abuse will turn to addiction and eventually dependence. This can have devastating effects on every facet of a person’s life.

 

If you’re concerned that a loved one is experiencing symptoms of trauma, the most important think you can do is encourage them to seek professional diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. You can help by contacting offices and vetting therapists on their behalf, and volunteer to take them to an appointment. Assure them of your love and support throughout the process.

For additional guidance and recommendations from a licensed professional, call my office today.

4 Subtle Signs of Trauma: When You’re Dealing with More Than You Think

When you think about someone experiencing trauma, incidents such as a violent or sexual assault or a terrible car accident might come to mind. But there are other, subtler forms of trauma that can negatively affect our lives and hinder our relationships.

Emotional trauma is often overlooked and minimized, and we may think we’ve “gotten over” some emotional pain that we’ve simply buried, and not dealt with. A break up, being passed over for a promotion at work or even a simple but negative childhood experience can cause emotional trauma. Read on to see if you recognize any of these four subtle signs of trauma in yourself.

Overwhelm

Anxiety and stress may develop in the aftermath of trauma, causing you to feel overwhelmed in numerous ways. You might feel out of control, like there is too much to do, or that people in your life are taking up too much of your time and attention. If you often feel as though your life has become unmanageable, this could be a sign that you have some unresolved emotional trauma.

Overreacting

Emotional overreactions are a common symptom of trauma. A victim of trauma might redirect their overwhelming emotions towards others, such as family and friends. Because these undealt with emotions are always bubbling under the surface, any incident that brings feelings forward can unleash these pent-up emotions. If you can recall times when you’ve overreacted, and perhaps have even been surprised at your own reactions, this may be a sign of trauma.

Shame

It’s not uncommon for people suffering from emotional trauma to have feelings of shame and self-blame. If you have feelings of shame because of a traumatic event, you may devalue yourself or see yourself as weak. You might feel a stigma from what you endured, and this may prevent you from admitting that you may be traumatized, or prevent you from seeking help.

Daydreaming

Another subtle sign of trauma is “zoning” or “spacing out.” You might feel disconnected from others or have difficulty staying present in social situations. Emotional trauma can cause you to slow down internally, numbing your emotions or causing you to feel exhaust. Because of the trauma you experienced, you may be averse to the expression of painful emotions, so you turn those emotions off. As you withdraw, your relationships with others suffer, causing you further psychological pain.

If these signs seem familiar and you believe you may be suffering from trauma, help is available. A caring, licensed professional trained in trauma treatment can help. Take the first step by giving me a call today, and let’s set up a time to talk.

Mass Shootings: How to Talk to Your Kids

After the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, certainly no one could imagine that over the next 20 years, 200 more school shootings would occur. In the first 79 days of 2018 alone, there were 12 school shootings, compared to 9 over the entire year of 2017. Sadly, school shootings are becoming an epidemic in the United States. As the nation struggles to find a solution to the violence, our kids’ safety and security hang in the balance.

How you talk to your kids about these tragedies varies by age and per individual child, but it’s important to take note that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children under 8. Kids under 8 have difficulty telling if the violence they’re watching at the movies or on TV is real or fantasy, which can cause great fear and anxiety. For this same reason, experts also recommend that children under 11 avoid watching the news entirely. At this young age, children’s brains have not yet developed enough to cope with violent tragedies, and exposure to these realities can be damaging psychologically.

For children over the age of 8, or if you believe your child might hear about the incident from others, first summarize the event in a single sentence. Keep in mind that your child will use your words to tell the story to themselves in their head, so choose your words carefully. What you say should also reflect your family’s beliefs and values. Speak in a calm and matter-of-fact tone of voice, as your emotional reaction will have a long lasting impact on your child, more so than your words. Children will have a lot of questions so try to stay focused on positives, such as the people that helped and the support of the community.

For pre-teens and teens, start by asking what they know. Ask how they feel, and listen carefully to what they say. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

Your child may want to do something to help. Discuss what you can do together to help the victims’ families, the school, or the community. Volunteering can help us cope with tragedy as we feel the positive effects of contributing and doing good for people in need.

 

If you or your child are struggling to cope emotionally because of an incident of mass violence, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today so we can schedule an appointment to talk.

Mass Shootings: How to Talk to Your Kids

After the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, certainly no one could imagine that over the next 20 years, 200 more school shootings would occur. In the first 79 days of 2018 alone, there were 12 school shootings, compared to 9 over the entire year of 2017. Sadly, school shootings are becoming an epidemic in the United States. As the nation struggles to find a solution to the violence, our kids’ safety and security hang in the balance.

How you talk to your kids about these tragedies varies by age and per individual child, but it’s important to take note that both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend avoiding the topic with children under 8. Kids under 8 have difficulty telling if the violence they’re watching at the movies or on TV is real or fantasy, which can cause great fear and anxiety. For this same reason, experts also recommend that children under 11 avoid watching the news entirely. At this young age, children’s brains have not yet developed enough to cope with violent tragedies, and exposure to these realities can be damaging psychologically.

For children over the age of 8, or if you believe your child might hear about the incident from others, first summarize the event in a single sentence. Keep in mind that your child will use your words to tell the story to themselves in their head, so choose your words carefully. What you say should also reflect your family’s beliefs and values. Speak in a calm and matter-of-fact tone of voice, as your emotional reaction will have a long lasting impact on your child, more so than your words. Children will have a lot of questions so try to stay focused on positives, such as the people that helped and the support of the community.

For pre-teens and teens, start by asking what they know. Ask how they feel, and listen carefully to what they say. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too.

Your child may want to do something to help. Discuss what you can do together to help the victims’ families, the school, or the community. Volunteering can help us cope with tragedy as we feel the positive effects of contributing and doing good for people in need.

 

If you or your child are struggling to cope emotionally because of an incident of mass violence, a licensed mental health professional can help. Call my office today so we can schedule an appointment to talk.

Do You Have PTSD? Recognizing the Signs

As shocking instances of mass shootings continue to occur all over the United States, we often hear people talk about Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Frequently associated with post-war veterans and victims of mass violence, PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can develop in people who’ve experienced or witnessed a traumatic or life-threatening event.

However, there are many other instances of trauma that can cause someone to develop PTSD besides combat or witnessing a terrorist attack. Anyone of any age that has experienced a violent or sexual assault, a natural disaster, a car accident or any other shocking or dangerous event is at risk of developing PTSD. If you’re concerned you or a loved one may be suffering from PTSD, here are some signs to look out for.

Reliving the Event

Someone with PTSD will have involuntary re-experiences of the trauma through nightmares, flashbacks, triggers, and unwanted thoughts or memories. Sounds or smells may take them back to the traumatic experience, or they may develop physical ailments when they’re reminded of or remember the event.

Symptoms of Arousal and Reactivity

PTSD sufferers will frequently feel on edge, unsafe or be easily startled. They may be prone to anger, agitation, or sadness. It’s also common for victims of PTSD to have trouble sleeping or concentrating, and they may develop changes in their eating habits by either eating too much or too little.

Avoidance Behavior

An individual suffering from PTSD may begin to avoid the area where they experienced the event, or areas that remind them of what happened. They may also avoid people, events or objects that bring negative memories forward. It’s also common for people with PTSD to avoid talking about the situation, or avoiding feelings related to the event.

Negative Thoughts and Feelings

Feelings of shame, self-blame, and exaggerated negative beliefs are common in people with PTSD. They may lose interest in things they once enjoyed, and isolate themselves from friends and loved ones. It’s also not uncommon for people with PTSD to entirely lose trust in people, or to believe that the world is a dangerous place.

 

After experiencing a traumatic event, it’s natural for someone to have any of the symptoms listed above. However, for people suffering from PTSD, the symptoms persist for weeks, months, or even longer and begin to affect their ability to function.

If you’re worried you might be suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and need the help of a licensed professional, please call my office today and let’s set up an appointment to talk.

Sand Tray Therapy: Expressing More Than Words

Many of us have early childhood memories of making sand castles at the beach, or playing in a sandbox at the park playground. That peaceful memory of being alone in your thoughts as you mold the sand and create something unique is a clue to the effectiveness of sand tray therapy as a therapeutic tool.

Although sand tray therapy is very effective for children who aren’t quite mature enough to express their feelings and experiences in words, or children who have been victims of abuse or neglect, sand tray therapy is also effective for adolescents, adults, and even couples.

Don’t underestimate it! At times when you may feel “stuck” verbally expressing yourself in therapy, sand tray therapy may be a useful outlet for non-verbal expression.

What Is Sand Tray Therapy?

Sand tray therapy is similar to art therapy in that it’s a type of therapy that encourages hands-on self-expression. Sand tray therapy should not be confused with sandplay therapy. Sandplay therapy requires certification, and provides little to no interpretation, whereas sand tray therapy is a more flexible type of therapy that does provide some interpretation of the client’s creations.

In sand tray therapy, a therapist will have a blue sand tray, the blue representing the sky or a body of water. The therapist may have both dry and moist sand available. The therapist will also have a wide selection of miniatures such as human figurines, objects of folklore or fantasy, objects of nature, buildings, vehicles, etc.

Sand tray therapy occurs in conjunction with talk therapy. Not every session will involve sand tray therapy. Your therapist may take photos of the worlds you create, and work with you to analyze and discuss your choices after several sessions, or they may do so after each sand tray session.

How Can Sand Tray Therapy Help Me?

As Carl Jung said, “Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” Sand tray therapy allows your inner psyche to create a unique three-dimensional world within a safe container; it may incorporate long forgotten or buried memories.

If you struggle with perfectionism or have difficulty expressing yourself verbally for any reason, sand tray therapy can help you open up and access deeper self-awareness than you might achieve with talk therapy alone.

If sand tray therapy sounds like it would be a useful tool for you, and you would like to work with a licensed professional that specializes in sand tray therapy, please call my office today so we can schedule an appointment.

How To Cope With The Psychological Trauma Of A Mass Shooting

When tragedies like mass shootings occur, most of us struggle to make sense of it. How could something so terrible happen? What would cause another human being to do such a thing? And how can we move on with the knowledge that this latest mass shooting most likely won’t be the last?

After a traumatic event, it is common to experience emotions such as shock, anger, sadness, and fear. Many people, especially young children, experience trouble sleeping and concentrating. While it may seem your life will never get back to normal, there are things you can do to cope and find emotional relief.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

During this time, it is important that you are honest with yourself about your feelings. Shoving them down may seem like the only way to function, but in the long-run, ignoring your emotions will only make things worse.

Take some time each day to connect with whatever it is you are feeling. Allow your reaction to your own feelings to flow through you and do not judge yourself.

Let Go of Your Need to Control

One of the reasons people have such powerful reactions after a major tragedy is because it reminds all of us that we don’t have as much control over our lives as we like to think we do. While it may seem counterintuitive, it is important to let go of this need to control every aspect of our lives. If we don’t, we end up feeling like failures on top of our other coping emotions.

Each day, try and practice what is called by many as “radical acceptance.” Accept and acknowledge that the world isn’t as safe as you’d like it. Accept and acknowledge that you cannot control every aspect of your life. When you do this, you feel a sense of calm and peace, as if you have just laid down a heavy weight and burden.

Try to Rely on Logic

After a tragedy, it is very easy to become so fraught with emotions that we lose all sense of logic and reasoning. Logic and emotion are like Yin and Yang. Logic balances out our emotions to ensure we are perceiving our reality as accurately as possible.

Our emotions tell us the world is a dangerous place and we or our loved ones may become victims of a mass shooting. But logic would remind us that there are millions more people who have never and will never be the victim of a mass shooting.

If you feel panicky, take a step back from your emotions and your natural “fight or flight” response and logically evaluate the likelihood of personal danger in your life.

Speak with Someone

It is not always easy to deal with our emotions. They can sometimes seem overwhelming and leave us feeling helpless against them. In times like these, it’s a good idea to seek the help of a trained counselor who can offer tools and insights to cope.

If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment options, please reach out to me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.