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  • Writer's pictureHeather Keenan, LCSW

How EMDR Can Help You Overcome Stress & Trauma

My name is Heather Deecken and I am a Licensed Clinical Social worker in the state of Florida, practicing out of Bayview Therapy in Fort Lauderdale with my own private practice called Awakening Hope. 

What I am going to be talking about today is the topic of trauma, explaining what it is, how it impacts our brain, and how we can begin to heal from it and move forward with our lives.

So, what is trauma?

Trauma is any event or experience in your life that has had a continued or long-standing impact. This can be a variety of experiences including emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, serving in war, or abusive relationships. These are a few of many many experiences that can be traumatic for someone. The biggest thing is that no one can tell you what is or what is not trauma. At the end of the day, there is not one exact definition of trauma. Just an event or experience in your life that continues to pose challenges for you. 

These challenges and symptoms can be in the form of nightmares or flashbacks, which is when you feel like you are reliving the past experience. You may be feeling numb or disconnected from other people or even yourself. Disconnected from your emotions, body, or reality that is in front of you. Another symptom can be avoidance of any triggers that resemble your past experiences.

So let’s get straight into the science. Our brain is a powerhouse. It directs how we feel, what we think, and how we behave. We have two sides of our brain, the left and the right. One side of the brain is the emotional and the other side is the rational or realistic side. 

I want you to think of our brain as a filing cabinet. When we go through normal day to day experiences, our brain is able to take that information and store it away appropriately, or in the right folder. The reason behind this is so that when we need to access that information at a later time, it is easily accessible. 

When we go through something traumatic, our rational and realistic side of the brain is turned off. Our brain goes into fight or flight mode and it gets stored with all the heightened emotions, thoughts, and body sensations. In terms of the analogy, the information gets stored in the wrong folder. Our brain gets what we called stuck in this position and in your nervous system. Since the information is not properly stored, we can very easily get triggered, resulting in our body and brain remaining in an overwhelmed position and constantly in fight or flight.

An example of this could be going through an experience as a child where I did not feel safe. Since the information was improperly stored, my body is in a constant fight or flight mode and I continue to carry this belief that I am not safe. Years later, I am at a concert and I hear a sudden noise or someone is standing behind me and I instantly get triggered. Again, because I do not feel safe. This can be very overwhelming for someone to experience these reactions, especially when it is happening many times throughout the day.

There are many ways we can begin to heal from this trauma, however the one I will be discussing today is EMDR therapy which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

What EMDR does is stimulate both sides of  the brain to help desensitize and reprocess these traumatic experiences, rationally and realistically. We start by desensitizing, or decreasing the disturbance level of the memory and then we reprocess it so we are able to adapt healthier and more rational beliefs and perceptions. The event is still remembered, however the painful thoughts and emotions are removed. 

EMDR therapy is an accelerated therapeutic approach. A couple of sessions can be months or years of talk therapy. 

If you are in south Florida and have been experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact me at 954.391.5305 and see if this may be something that would benefit from you. I look forward to hearing from you and beginning this journey of healing.


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