Trauma can interrupt your daily life. We can work together to limit trauma’s effect and move beyond the pain. I use a variety of effective therapeutic methods for treating trauma, including Somatic Experiencing, Brainspotting, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Sometimes these therapies can be helpful in relationship therapy as well.
Somatic Experiencing (SE)
SE offers a new and hopeful vision of trauma. Growing scientific evidence indicates that the dynamics of traumatic stress and its symptoms have significant biological components. Developed by Dr. Peter Levine, author of Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma, SE is a powerful method for addressing the psychobiology of stress and trauma. Dr Levine has studied and observed traumatic stress in humans and animals for over thirty years and has developed a deep understanding of human survival energy’s function. This body-focused approach understands that traumatic stress symptoms are often expressions of incomplete or fixated lower brain functions of fight, flight and freeze. SE helps people complete these responses and restore their inherent self-correcting and self-regulating mechanisms. Integrating lower psychomotor processes with higher brain processes of cognitions and feeling, it creates a more flexible neurological system and enhances the capacity to enjoy a wide spectrum of human experience.
- SE employs awareness of body sensation to help people “renegotiate” and heal rather than re-live or re-enact trauma.
- SE’s guidance of the bodily “felt sense,” allows the highly aroused survival energies to be safely experienced and gradually discharged.
- SE “titrates” experience, rather than evoking catharsis – which can overwhelm the regulatory mechanisms of the organism.
- SE helps eliminate pitfalls of re-traumatization and the spurious generation of “false memories.”
Brainspotting is an effective, focused treatment method that was developed by David Grand, Ph.D. It works by identifying, processing and releasing core neurophysiological sources of emotional/body pain, trauma, dissociation and a variety of other challenging symptoms. Brainspotting is a tool (within the safe, trusting, nurturing clinical relationship) to neurobiologically locate, focus, process, and release experiences and symptoms that are typically out of reach of the conscious mind and its cognitive and language capacity. As with EMDR, bilateral stimulation is often part of the process, usually in the form of soothing nature sounds or music which flows from ear to ear. A “brainspot” is the eye position which is related to the energetic/emotional activation of a traumatic/emotionally charged issue within the brain. This eye position is located by either the client or the psychotherapist as the client slowly scans the visual field while thinking about the issue. The brainspot can be recognized by noticing an increase of emotion or body sensation in a particular spot; or the therapist may observe reflexive responses such as changes in the eyes, facial expression, breathing or body position. As attention is given to processing of the issue while the client is focused on the brainspot, enhanced with bilateral sound, the charged material then moves in the direction of discharge and healing can occur.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a powerful trauma treatment to help heal post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and psychological issues. It is estimated that half a million people have been successfully treated with EMDR and have benefited from this method. It is extremely helpful in the treatment and resolution of the disturbing experiences and trauma that mold and affect many of us. EMDR is a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach. It contains elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies.
EMDR is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.
During treatment various procedures and protocols are used to address the entire clinical picture. One of the procedural elements is “dual stimulation” using either bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. During the reprocessing phases the client attends momentarily to past memories, present triggers, or anticipated future experiences while simultaneously focusing on a set of external stimulus. During that time, clients generally experience the emergence of insight, changes in memories, or new associations. The clinician assists the client to focus on appropriate material before initiation of each subsequent set.