Benefits of EMDR for Trauma Survivors

Trauma survivors can benefit from several different therapies to address their mental health needs. One of the newer treatments of trauma called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been effective in treating trauma-related disorders, including PTSD. If you or a loved one survived traumatic experiences yet continues to struggle with mental health or co-occurring addiction, EMDR might be the treatment you need to change from a survivor of trauma to a thriver.

What Types of Trauma Can EMDR Treat?

EMDR is effective for different types of trauma. Your experience with trauma might be different from another person. While some people share similar experiences, no two people react in precisely the same way.

Generally, trauma can be categorized into two types: “Big T” and “little t” trauma. Either type of trauma can have similar effects on your brain, which becomes stuck in a “survivor mode” following trauma. 

What Is ‘Big T’ Trauma?

“Big T” trauma refers to events that nearly every person would find traumatic. These events are life-threatening, distressing, or disturbing in a significant way. Some “Big T” traumas can be a one-time event or repeated and prolonged traumas.

Examples of “Big T” traumas include:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse or assault
  • Exposure to combat
  • Racism
  • Natural disasters
  • Terrorism or living in a war zone
  • Unexpected loss of a loved one
  • Car or plane crash
  • Domestic or childhood violence and abuse

Events like these can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), while some people recover after trauma naturally, “[p]eople who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened, even when they are not in danger.”

What Is ‘little t’ trauma?

“Little t” trauma refers to events that might not be universally traumatic like “Big T” traumas. Every person responds differently to events in their life. You might go through changes that feel devastating to you that another person might brush off and move forward quickly. 

“Little t” traumas can go unacknowledged easily because of how subjective they can be. Regardless of whether others find these events traumatic or not, your experience is unique and valid. Everyone reacts differently to life, and you might struggle with “little t” traumas that others fail to validate or recognize.

Examples of “little t” traumas include:

  • moving to a new town
  • leaving home to attend college or join the armed forces
  • disruptions to important relationships, like divorce or a break-up
  • arguments and interpersonal conflicts
  • loss of a job or other financial struggles
  • legal issues

While some people might move on quickly from events like these, everyone is different in their ability to cope with changes. Additionally, when “little t” traumas add up, they can significantly alter your perspective and make you feel helpless. For example, you might move away from your hometown to attend college, break up with your significant other, and get into an argument with your new roommate — all within a short amount of time.

Whether you experience “Big T” or “little t” traumas or develop PTSD, your outlook on life might be similar if you allow your trauma to go untreated. You might feel hopeless or helpless as if you are going through life without any control over the events that happen to you.

How Effective Is EMDR For Trauma Survivors?

In an article published in The Permanente Journal, the author state that “Twenty-four randomized controlled trials support the positive effects of EMDR therapy in the treatment of emotional trauma and other adverse life experiences.” 

In addition, EMDR might work more efficiently and quickly than other types of treatment, like trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. EMDR can be used along with other types of therapies to enhance your treatment and help you get better sooner.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR or “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” helps you get past trauma by healing the central nervous system, which is “stuck” in a survival mode due to trauma. EMDR helps your brain return to normal functioning as you process your trauma during your sessions.

Your therapist will guide you through your trauma work while asking you to engage in “bilateral stimulation.” In EMDR, the most used form of bilateral stimulation is moving your eyes from right to left as guided by your therapist. Bilateral stimulation involves bodily sensations that alternate between the right and left sides of the body. Your therapist can also employ other types of bilateral stimulation, like sounds and touch.

Bilateral stimulation has a calming effect on your central nervous system. As you talk about your feelings and trauma, the bilateral stimulation keeps you from going into “survival mode” as your brain learns to recall the events of your trauma in a calm state. The neural pathways can then heal much more quickly than with talk therapy alone. 

The benefits of EMDR for trauma survivors come from actively retraining and healing the central nervous system. Your body and mind learn not to overreact in the moment, which helps you realize that you are no longer in danger. With EMDR, you can once again feel safe so you can move forward and thrive despite the traumatic events of your past.

EMDR For Trauma Survivors In South Flordia

EMDR can help you move past your trauma and get back to living the life you deserve. Trauma is different for everyone, and your trauma treatment should reflect the uniqueness of your experience. Ambrosia Treatment Center of South Florida offers EMDR and other types of trauma programming for you or your loved one. Call us now or visit our admissions page today to get started.

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