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Is EMDR Beneficial for Treating Trauma and PTSD?



Wednesday, 2 August, 2017

At some point in our life, we will experience a form of trauma.  Often unforeseen, these events can begin and end in an instant or emerge over time.  Traumatic events can affect us for the rest of our lives.  Many people who experience a traumatic event will recover from the symptoms naturally, however; those who continue to experience symptoms are diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Affecting over 7.7 million adults, PTSD is often seen in victims of sexual assault and military veterans. Children can also have PTSD after a traumatic event and may withdraw from friends, refuse to talk or experience frequent stomach aches.

In In 1987, psychologist Francine Shapiro discovered that voluntary eye movements reduced the intensity of disturbing thoughts and started a research study examining the effectiveness of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in treating Vietnam combat veterans and victims of sexual assaults. After 3-5 sessions using EMDR, Dr. Shapiro concluded the PTSD symptoms disappeared. Since this time, this evidence-based psychotherapy approach has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.

At Lifeskills South Florida, we treat the full continuum of trauma and PTSD, both simple and complex. We have three trauma-trained clinicians, all of whom provide group and individual therapy to address the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. In addition to gender specific trauma groups, our clinicians use EMDR to specifically hone in on the client’s trauma to assist tailoring an individualized treatment approach for them.

Our primary therapist, Ostin Celetin, describes EMDR as a three-pronged approach:

  1. Process Past event: Identify core memories-earliest memories that laid the foundation for the presenting problems-Identify themes and clusters that represent the event
  2. Process Present Event: Process current triggers, stressors of recent event(s)
  3. Process Future Events: Help design a template of desired thoughts, emotions, actions for future events that typically have been avoided or uncomfortable

EMDR processing entails:

  • Accessing the dysfunctionally stored information
  • Stimulating the information processing system and keep it
  • Move the information by monitoring the free association process and facilitate adaptive resolution
  • Desensitize, reduce the subjective unit of distress
  • Reprocess, learning occurs so client adapts new understanding of the event and shifts negative cognitions to positive ones

The benefit of EMDR is that takes the traumatic memory and makes it more distant, vague, and less distressing. The brain is doing the healing, and the individual is in control during the processing of the memory, so there is no need to talk extensively about the trauma. EMDR helps to relieve symptoms of trauma, but it has also been documented as giving successful outcomes in the treatment of other psychiatric disorders, mental health problems and somatic symptoms (i.e. depression, anxiety, shame, guilt, esteem). In addition to your psychological recovery, EMDR can help you experience a feeling of physical recovery and restore your full emotional health.

As one of the most distinguished addiction treatment centers in the South Florida area, Lifeskills South Florida is accredited to treat psychiatric disorders, such as trauma and PTSD, and substance use disorders effectively. We currently offer treatment services in both residential and outpatient settings and offer a clinical track for addiction. To learn more about the enrollment process, please call our admissions office at 844-749-1560 or complete our contact form.

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