When you experience trauma, your brain can get "stuck". It forgets how old you are, what year it is, and even sometimes where you are. Suddenly your body is reacting (pulse, breathing, brain waves) as if it is happening all over again. This can be very subtle: "You know I hate when you do that because my mom always did that!" or it can be a severe flashback, where you are suddenly re-experiencing the trauma all over again.
It's not your fault. What is happening is a complete takeover of your brain. Your brain's frontal lobe (your very adult part) has shut down. Your limbic system (your primitive self) has taken over. The very adult and competent you is no longer calling the shots. It is time for fight, flight, freeze, faint or some combination of these. And any attempts of your very adult self to stop this process are frustrating to say the least.
Traditional talk therapy alone is not enough to heal trauma. In the words of Bessel Van DerKolk, "If they could talk about it, they wouldn't have [trauma]". In other words, the stuff you can talk about is usually the easier stuff. And while it is important for your first steps to healing, simple talking isn't enough to send the message to your brain that the trauma is over and it can end its hostile takeover.
After experiencing EMDR (and its derivative Brainspotting), and also seeing it work in the lives of my clients, I finally added EMDR training to my toolbag in 2013 and Brainspotting in 2016. EMDR is the most widely and clinically researched therapeutic method for trauma. (Read extensively about it on the International websitewww.EMDRia.org) It is clinically demonstrated to be effective and quick- delivering healing and growth in rapid time periods. Besides this, here are some reasons I personally love brain-informed techniques and use them whenever clients are in need and willing.
- No need to re-hash tiny details: Unlike traditional exposure therapy, the purpose of EMDR is not that I know every difficult detail of your experience. This is a big relief for those with PTSD who can't stand the idea of telling their story yet again.
- It works on a neurological level: Unlike talking alone- which uses the parts of your brain that are shut down during a trauma response- EMDR utilizes a simple but effective bi-lateral stimulus. This means we are using your whole brain (yes, even the primitive parts) and healing the whole brain together.
- It gives you years worth of therapy in a matter of months: Clients using EMDR really "get better". They experience freedom from the past. They experience growth in themselves. They are able to finally make the changes they have always wanted to, but been unable to.
Is EMDR for everyone? No, there are some who either don't prefer it or have other conditions that make it less effective for them. But it is generally well used again and again. It is hard psychological work, but it provides such rapid growth and improvement, almost everyone wants to do it the very next appointment.
Did you know? I specialize in birth trauma therapy.Read more on my blog- click here or hear podcasts here.
But what is EMDR or Brainspotting like? I'm glad you asked. See my videos below.
Trauma is a neurological issue with a therapeutic cure.