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Coping with Trauma During EMDR Treatment


Following a traumatic experience, the mind and body go to work protecting us from the associated pain and fear. For some people, this trauma response is easily processed and resolved. Others, struggle with an elevated trauma response that doesn’t resolve on its own, leaving them experiencing a wide range of physical, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional effects. For those dealing with the effects of trauma, there are many types of therapy that are proven effective in helping people heal and move forward. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy offers an effective solution for many who are dealing with the effects of trauma. However, it’s important to keep in mind that working through traumatic experiences can be difficult. During the EMDR treatment process, your therapist will help you develop effective strategies to cope as you process and heal from trauma. In this blog, we’ll walk through some of the basics of EMDR treatment, trauma, and how your therapist can help you cope during the EMDR therapy process.


What Is EMDR Treatment?

EMDR treatment is a specialized form of therapy that was developed to help people who were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Today, this form of therapy is also used for people who want to heal from the effects of trauma in general as well as for people who are struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. EMDR therapy is founded in the idea that some trauma causes people to be frozen in a past memory or emotion, so triggering these memories or emotions leads to people to feel like the traumatic events are happening again in the present moment. EMDR allows the brain to safely and effectively process these memories and emotions, so they no longer have an adverse effect.

What Can I Expect During EMDR Therapy Sessions?

EMDR therapy sessions involve using bilateral (side-to-side) movements while reflecting on traumatic memories to help people move from the elevated state of trauma response to a place of healing and resolution. The combination of memory processing and bilateral stimulation allows the brain to breakdown the negative associations and change the way that traumatic memories are stored. As traumatic experiences are processed during EMDR therapy sessions, you’ll quickly begin to see improved response when presented with triggering emotions or events. In fact, most people have noticeable improvement with just six to twelve EMDR sessions.




How Can I Cope with Trauma Response During EMDR Treatment?

While EMDR therapy is a relatively fast process, especially compared with other forms of trauma treatment that can take years to deliver results, it can still bring up a lot of difficult emotions. When these difficult emotions arise, there are many affective ways to cope, including:

· Develop and practice self-soothing techniques like visualization. This is a process that involves picturing yourself in a safe, peaceful place whenever you feel especially triggered by difficult or complex emotions that arise during the trauma healing process.

· Keep a journal to track any difficult emotions or memories that arise, when they came up, and how you responded. In the beginning, this helps you to pay attention to, name, and process your emotions. Over time, you should also be able to see the way your response to triggers changes and improves.

· Meditate and practice other relaxation techniques. Meditation doesn’t need to be anything formal or complicated. Instead, taking time for meditation can be as simple as finding a safe space, closing your eyes, taking some deep breaths, and clearing your thoughts for a while. Another simple relaxation technique involves laying down and slowly tensing your muscles. Then, allowing them to relax. You can start with your toes and move up your body. This is also great way to go to sleep if you find yourself having difficulty with intrusive thoughts at bedtime.


Can I Schedule EMDR Treatment at Gerdin Psychological Services?

I’m Dr. Tyler Gerdin. At Gerdin Psychological Services, I offer therapy services to help people who are working through a variety of concerns, including trauma and PTSD. If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy or any of the other assessment and counseling services I provide, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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