By Hannah Mosser, MA, LPC
Big T, little t, what begins with T?
Trauma comes in many different forms, shapes and sizes. We tend to think of Big T traumas as events like 9/11 or being the victim of sexual abuse; something that when heard by others, is very clearly thought of as being tragic. Little t traumas are perhaps less obviously distressing; they include events like witnessing a car accident, being bullied in school, or loss of a beloved pet. The bottom line is that whether someone encounters a Big T or Little t trauma, we are all impacted differently by global, communal, personal events and circumstances. When these are circumstances that we either did not anticipate, or were unprepared to handle, they can become traumatizing.
What is EMDR?
Research demonstrates that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (commonly referred to as EMDR), is an effective therapy for the treatment of trauma. While much could be offered in way of explanation of this therapeutic modality, let’s get into some of the commonly asked questions that you might have when you are getting help for your trauma.
Will I need to explain every detail of what happened?
No. In other types of therapy, it is typical that as a client you would unpack and name the details of the trauma or traumatic event that you experienced. Naming what has happened and putting a language to it can be healing. However, in EMDR, rather than the counselor facilitating what you’ll share about the traumas that are being addressed, you are minimal in discussing the details of the event. Some basic background and context information will be required, but this is limited vs. sharing what might be an uncomfortable amount of information (that you might find difficult describing and reliving). You’re providing the therapists with brief descriptions, sometimes using only a few words to capture what occurred such as: “how you are feeling now, what you are experiencing physically, and what is it you’re thinking?”
How does it work?
It is a process. Often clients hear EMDR and think “instant healing” or “is this where they do that funny tapping?” EMDR can be a quicker healing process compared to traditional talk therapy, but it is still a process. It will begin with your therapist taking the time to explain the process in far more detail (then this blog) so you know what to expect from the counseling process. Your first session will still be a standard intake: background info (who you are, what symptoms you’re experiencing that is causing you to seek counseling now, treatment goals, etc.). The next handful of sessions will contain some education on what to expect from therapy, making sure you have the resources internally and externally to be doing this healing work, as well as some grounding and visualization techniques. After this, the reprocessing will begin. This is the exciting part, where you’ll choose a tactile movement to keep you in the present moment, while the counselor will provide you with guidance for reprocessing some of the events that are causing you pain and discomfort. The goal here is to decrease, relieve, any trauma responses that are connected to the event, so that you are no longer negatively impacted or troubled by the events that have happened to or around you.
Will I retain any memory of the original event?
Most often, yes. Within EMDR, we are trusting your brain to do its own healing work. The counselor is there to facilitate the process, but ultimately we (me as the counselor and you as the client) are trusting your brain to heal itself. Sounds wild, I know! Having said that, most people will retain the original image or event of what occurred; if your brain needs to dispose of pieces of the original event that is being processed, it will do so.
Let’s chat about this more in person!
If you are anything like me, this little spat of information likely feels insufficient. If you are curious about EMDR, please reach out by phone or email and we can have a free 15 minute phone consult, where you can briefly explain what you’re experiencing and why you are considering EMDR. Together, we can identify if this will be the best treatment path for you as you seek trauma therapy. If we think this is a good fit, we can get you scheduled. If there’s a better-fitting option, we can set you up with that as well. There is recovery from trauma, live the life you were meant to live!