When reading the title of this post, you be tempted to say that all trauma is “complicated.” This is not untrue, but in a clinical setting, “complicated trauma” refers to a condition called complex PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Generally speaking, C-PTSD is caused by ongoing trauma more than any single event. Someone may be exposed to chronic abuse or neglect. Bullying or domestic violence may be relentless. Scenarios like kidnapping, trafficking, or living in a war zone often contribute to a diagnosis of C-PTSD.
This is where eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) enters the picture. It’s an unusual but very effective treatment method that can help with complicated trauma.
EMDR does not look anything like other forms of therapy. Basically, after some important preliminaries (taking a history, learning the skills, etc.), your therapist will have you focus your eyes on their hand and finger movements. This combination can induce a state similar to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in you.
In such a state, you will be able to safely focus on and process negative memories. You can also “replace” those memories with positive images and thoughts.EMDR has a stellar record of resolving trauma and ending the stress it causes. This goes for both PTSD and C-PTSD.
How EMDR Helps With Complicated Trauma
You Can Safely Access the Memories
With trauma, reminders of the experience is usually quite triggering. When undergoing EMDR, you are able to finally access the painful events in their entirety from a slightly detached perspective. You can piece together what happened and work toward a resolution.
You Learn Coping Skills
Before you begin accessing the memories, you work with your therapist to develop coping skills. These will offer you the resilience you need for such work. You’re able to recall the experiences, hold them in your mind’s eye, and then replace it with something that enriches your life instead. All during your sessions, you have full control. You’re not hypnotized. If the memory feels too intense, you can stop and try again.
Someone who has endured chronic trauma may seek ways to detach themselves from the pain, guilt, anger, and shame. This is understandable but it prevents you from feeling your emotions and finding ways to regulate them. EMDR takes this possibility into account and your therapist will address the dissociation before getting to the eye and hand movements.
Time Frame Accommodation
In therapy terms, EMDR is considered to be short or quick. However, it contains mechanisms that can adjust the time frame depending on need. In other words, someone with C-PTSD may logically have more to process. EMDR can accommodate such a scenario.
In addition, your EMDR therapist already understands that you have a lot to unpack. Treating complicated trauma means addressing multiple memories. EMDR is designed for this task.
Reduction of Symptoms
This is a direct correlation between the resolving of memories and the reduction of C-PTSD symptoms. You will find yourself sleeping better, feeling less nervous, and enjoying a deeper sense of hope. This mindset shift is also crucial as EMDR treatment progress as you are better situated to continue healing.
Is EMDR the Right Option For You?
If you’ve endured the pain and nightmares of complicated trauma, you can recover. You can thrive again. It will require commitment and will take some time but approaches like eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing offer you a path toward a new life. I can guide you along that path.
Let’s get you scheduled for a free and confidential consultation. EMDR Therapy is the first step on your journey toward health and peace of mind.