Can EMDR Help with Childhood Trauma?

Childhood trauma can have devastating effects on adult life. Tragically, early life stressors like violence, neglect, or substance abuse in the home often contribute to kids developing serious issues. These include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or substance abuse of their own later in life. The effects of early-life woundings can be quite far-reaching, also negatively impacting educational attainment, income, and relationships. Fortunately, there are many effective treatments that can help adults with a history of childhood trauma move toward greater health and fulfillment. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is one of the top-rated treatment modalities for working with childhood trauma.

At Olympic Behavioral Health, our EMDR therapy program is just one of the many therapeutic options we offer our clients. Reach out to Olympic Behavioral Health at [Direct] or send a message online to learn more about how EMDR and childhood trauma can be linked.

How Does EMDR Therapy Help with Trauma and PTSD?

Because of its unique neuroscientific approach, EMDR therapy can significantly reduce the number and severity of trauma and PTSD symptoms. These include painful flashbacks, social difficulties, and mood symptoms. During EMDR treatment, clients review a troubling memory within the safe therapeutic environment while receiving bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation can take many forms. For example, clients might focus on lights that pulse on alternate sides of their peripheral vision or hold onto small electronic devices that deliver harmless buzzing sensations one side at a time.

EMDR is a powerful healing tool because of how the brain stores trauma. When the brain processes stress in a healthy way, the left hemisphere, associated with rational thinking, is able to self-soothe the right hemisphere, associated with emotional responses. This cross-hemisphere connection can break down, however, when stress is extreme and/, or the brain is not fully developed. The extremely stressful experience, or trauma, then gets stuck in the nervous system, where it can cause flashbacks and impair functioning for years to come.

EMDR helps restore the cross-hemisphere communication that the client lacked in the moments of traumatic stress. In this way, the brain regains its innate ability to heal and self-soothe.

What to Expect from EMDR Therapy for Trauma and PTSD

EMDR for adults with childhood trauma usually takes place in eight phases, which are:

  • Assessing client history – The therapist records the client’s trauma narrative and identifies the most debilitating present-day triggers, disturbing memories, and recovery goals.
  • Preparing for EMDR – The client learns about what will happen in therapy and practices self-regulation techniques that empower self-care.
  • Reviewing target memories – Before beginning the actual desensitization therapy, the therapist guides the client through the target memories. The therapist documents what the client reports about their thoughts and feelings and may ask them to provide numeric ratings for how disturbing each is.
  • Desensitizing memories – The client performs the actual technique of EMDR, engaging in bilateral stimulation while talking or thinking through a traumatic memory. Their therapist prompts them to share any new memories or thoughts that arise, and these may guide future EMDR sessions. The process for each memory continues until the client can move through it without significant distress.
  • Installing new cognitions – The therapist helps the client install positive cognitions to counteract the negative ones that are often linked to trauma memories.
  • Body inventorying – The client takes stock of their physical responses while engaging with trauma memories. They then receive further bilateral stimulation to process these physical components.
  • Closing – The therapist helps the client identify any memories that need more processing and helps contain them using special imagery work or other techniques.
  • Deciding what’s next – At the beginning of the following session, the therapist and client take stock of the client’s current mental state, determine whether the last session’s desensitization is intact, and decide what memories should be the focus of the current session.

Explore EMDR and Childhood Trauma at Olympic Behavioral Health

Childhood trauma can wreak havoc on everyday functioning, but there’s no need to suffer in silence. Thousands have benefited from EMDR therapy programs, and at Olympic Behavioral Health, we’re looking forward to answering your questions. Call our Olympic Behavioral Health team at [Direct] or send us a message via our website to learn more about EMDR for adults with childhood trauma today.

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