PTSD Treatment and therapy
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Increased hypervigilance, intrusive thoughts, feeling disconnected, anxiety, irritability, avoidance, feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating, and trouble sleeping are all symptomatic of living in survival mode.
These responses to stress are the body’s natural response to our being overwhelmed. While it is normal to want to “push” through all of this, one of the things that we have learned from modern science is that the body traps all of this energy, unwanted emotion and distressful thoughts inside our minds and bodies. For some people, past experiences and unpleasant sensations from life threatening incidents, violations of our bodies or neglect of emotional or physical needs get triggered by current events and are relived all over again.
Trauma can result from a single event or recurring events. It can be direct or experienced when we witness what others go through and empathize with them. First responders and mental health professionals have the additional burden of having responsibility to help that other.
Getting unstuck From The Past
Gold Standard in Trauma Treatment
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been used to treat trauma since 1987. Traumatic memories are thought to be those that get “stuck” in processing when we are overwhelmed. These frozen memories get stuck in the same emotional states experienced at the time of the trauma. Through a manualized protocol, these memories are stimulated to continue processing which often results in a more distant and less intrusive experience when these memories are recalled.
Limitations of Talk Therapy
Support, validation and perspective are important aspects of therapy, but they do not always reach the deeper structures of the brain where the repetitive behaviors of traumatic experiences are encoded. Some of this experience is beyond words or awareness and requires a “bottom-up” approach to healing that exists with EMDR. Certainly, words can form part of how we regulate emotion, but this is a function of our thinking brain. It is the thinking brain that assists with insight, self-narrative and meaning. A bottom-up approach helps target the visceral responses of trauma that are often felt in the body in the form of helplessness, vulnerability and impulses to fight or flee.
The Benefits of EMDR
EMDR functions on a cognitive, emotional and somatic level to restore balance that plays out in our inner experience, relationships and everyday life. It is a preferred treatment intervention among many clinicians and clients because of its potential to rapidly desensitize triggering reactions as certain “stuck” experiences resume processing.
Symptoms and Issues Treated
EMDR has been applied widely to what clinicians refer to as big “T” traumas, such as single incident car accidents and little “t” traumas which refer to a wide range of situations involving chronic stress or developmental trauma from childhood. These experiences include interactions we might not have considered trauma, but which respond well to reprocessing of cognitions, memory and emotional responses: disruptive relationships, narcissistic abuse, anger, loss, sexual assault, codependency, grief and infidelity.
When There are No Words
It’s not uncommon that we desire well-being and cannot even describe what is wrong. Sometimes we see destructive patterns in our relationships or reactions, or just sense an emptiness within. Not all trauma rises to the level of consciousness. Modalities such as EMDR and CBT can help draw out emotional pain that has no name, but maintains a real presence in our lives.
A Progressive Approach to Treating PTSD
Accelerated Resolution Therapy
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is prevalent in about 8% of the U.S. population. While shock and denial are common after any trauma, it is the longer term reactions such as flashbacks, physical symptoms and intrusive thoughts that are problematic for some and require more than talk therapy to work through and resolve the trauma.
Psychotherapy is a powerful process to transform this distress particularly when it is used to target both the mind and the body. Indeed, using somatic interventions that soothe body sensations and modalities that use the brain’s natural brain processes for memory reconsolidation and learning have proven most effective in terms of healing PTSD.
Accelerated Resolution Therapy is a cutting edge treatment for PTSD currently in use at Walter Reed Medical Center and the Betty Ford Foundation. It uses eye movement therapy to simulate the kind of eye-brain activity associated with REM sleep. It draws on cognitive therapies such as imaginal exposure and image rescripting to help trauma sufferers reprogram the way the brain stores traumatic memory.
Many clients report immediate relief after their A.R.T. sessions. It is not uncommon for people who have suffered for years to report significant improvement in just a few sessions. Clients remember the facts of certain events, but do not generate the strong emotions or physical sensations. What was disturbing that occurred in the past remains in the past.
Don’t Stay Stuck in Trauma and Suffering