Emdr for treating complex PTSD symptoms – Can It Be Helpful?

Eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has become a powerful tool for clinicians to help people recover and heal from general post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The technique is used, essentially, to focus on particular memories and to reprocess them. While, at the same time, the patient experiences bilateral stimulation provided by the therapist, such as following the therapist’s finger back and forth with their eyes, for example.

But is it possible to use EMDR for treating complex PTSD symptoms as well?emdr for treating complex ptsd symptoms

The short answer is yes, EMDR can help. Yet, modifications to EMDR are required for it to be most effective.

What Is Complex Trauma?

Essentially, complex trauma is trauma that has developed from not one traumatic event but many repeated events throughout a person’s life.

It’s not unheard of for people who sustained frequent abuse and neglect as children to develop complex PTSD as adults. The reason why it’s “complex” is that all of those experiences intertwine with each other. They create a mindset and reality for the person that has been based on their repeated traumatic experiences.

Thus, they often use coping mechanisms designed to mitigate the effects of the trauma. This might have worked well when they were children. But in adulthood, they hamstring the sufferer from living a normal life and having fulfilling relationships.

With the help of EMDR, people with complex PTSD can finally heal from the trauma that has been plaguing them for so long.

How Does Adapting EMDR for Treating Complex PTSD Symptoms Work?

Taking Note of Dysregulation

One modification that needs to be made to the EMDR protocol for treating complex PTSD is noting any kind dysregulation or disassociation. This can be accounted for early on, during the history-taking portion of the treatment.

When someone disassociates, they are separating themselves from their feelings or thoughts. This is more than walling-off emotions so that they can’t hurt you. It’s quite literally mentally disconnecting yourself from those feelings.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence for those with complex PTSD. The therapist might have to work with the client on their disassociation first before fully engaging in EMDR.

Accommodating for Time

Another modification to EMDR to consider when treating complex PTSD is the time frame for treatment. EMDR already isn’t the fastest treatment method. That’s on purpose, as it takes time for a therapist and client to build rapport, work on resolving traumatic memories, and build positive coping skills.

However, because complex PTSD includes many more thoughts, memories, and experiences, the time frame for treatment gets longer. The exact length of time will vary depending on the person and their individual needs.

Having a lot to Unpack

As mentioned above, with complex PTSD there is a lot more for both the therapist and patient to unpack. The therapist will need to sift through these memories, feelings, and experiences.

During an EMDR session, the therapist asks the patient to access a particular thought, memory, or feeling for processing. This might be for a short period of time at first. However, over several sessions, with support from the therapist, the patient is able to hold that for a longer period of time.

Once that memory has been resolved, you shift to the next one. As you can imagine, that can mean working on many memories in order to find closure from complex PTSD.

When it comes to treating complex PTSD symptoms, EMDR can be very effective. However, modifications to the EMDR protocol will be necessary for the treatment to work best.  A tool, even one that is powerful, is most helpful when it’s in the hands of a seasoned craftsmen. So a clinician who has expertise in treating complex trauma is likely going to be way more helpful to you.  C-PTSD treatment is a specialty, and most clinicians have little or no training in it’s treatment.

What’s important to remember is that you need to find a therapist who not only is well versed with complex PTSD and EMDR but with whom you can forge an effective relationship. With the help of a knowledgeable therapist, EMDR therapy can help you in resolving your complex trauma.

Please, contact me today to find out more.