Trauma is a word that that refers to a spectrum of diagnosis; the most well known being Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. However broadly speaking, Trauma refers to a single or series of events that happened in the past that continue to affect us negatively for a long time afterwards. Trauma and traumatic experiences result from highly stressful events that shatter a person’s sense of safety, security and serenity. In many cases, trauma renders one helpless and vulnerable or hardened and volatile in a world perceived as dangerous.
Some of the most well known symptoms of a traumatic experience can be: Panic attacks, constant background anxiety, nightmares, a constant sense of shame, or sense of numbness or spacing out.
Traumatic experiences entail a threat to life or overall well-being, but any situation that leaves a person feeling overwhelmed and alone can be traumatic, even if it doesn’t involve physical harm. It’s not the objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic, but one’s interpretation of the event. The more anxious, panicky or paralyzed a person feels, the more likely the persona has been traumatized.
Two Treatment Modalities:
EMDR is the only intervention that allows an individual to reprocess memories and events. Reprocessing means that an individual accesses the relevant memory and uses dual awareness with bilateral stimulation and images, thoughts, emotions and body sensations to move through the traumatic experiences that aren’t resolved. If storing memories is like putting away groceries, a traumatic event was stored by shoving a bunch of stuff in a cabinet and then any time it gets opened all the stuff falls on your head. EMDR allows you to pull everything out in a controlled manner and then put it away in the organized way that non-traumatic memories are stored.
- EMDR is highly recommended for individuals who have developmental or complex trauma, but also has evidence-based protocols for single incident trauma.
- EMDR has 8 phases of treatment, the first three of which don’t involve any bilateral stimulation, and are more about skills-building and resourcing in preparation for the processing phases.
Somatic Experiencing is a holistically oriented therapy which integrates the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of each of us. It accomplishes this by helping us to become aware of our bodies and the sensations we experience through them. When our mind can be so busy with worries, schedules and concerns, our body’s awareness and breathing can help us to focus on what we are experiencing in the moment. It is so easy for our mind to get lost in what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future. When we take the time to focus, we can become aware of those places where we are “holding.” That is, we can recognize those places where we are tight, sore or uncomfortable. It may be our stomach, shoulders, neck or head or any other area of our body that we realize is tight or uncomfortable. We may not have even known of our discomfort until we stopped and paid attention.