EMDR and Trauma-focused Therapy

Overcoming trauma and reclaiming your life

Trauma-informed and trauma-focused therapy

Traumatic events can happen suddenly and can leave us feeling frightened, ashamed and change the way we relate to ourselves, others and the world around us. Accidents, illnesses, emotional, sexual and physical abuse; trauma can take different forms and impact on us in different ways.

 

Following a traumatic event, you are likely to experience unwanted physical, emotional and psychological responses that can be difficult to manage. You may find it difficult to process and make sense of what happened. Feelings of anger, shame, guilt and fear can be very strong after a traumatic event and, at times, can make it difficult for us to talk about what has happened with people who are close to us. Or sometimes, we might work up the courage to talk but people in our lives can have a negative reaction, leading to further feelings of anger, guilt and shame that can be difficult to process. 

 

Most people who experience a traumatic event (or multiple events) will be impacted by this in some way. In the first few hours or days after a traumatic event you may feel shocked, confused, distressed and frightened. It is important to remember that there is no "right" or "wrong" way to react to a traumatic event. Everyone will be impacted and react differently. It is also important to mention that, whilst most people involved in a traumatic event will be somewhat impacted, most people adjust well and will recover within three to six months from the traumatic event. 

There are times when traumatic events have a long-lasting effect on our lives and impact on our ability to function and live a fullfilling life. Trauma-informed and trauma-focused therapy can help us reconceptualise what has happened in our past so that we can begin to feel less frightened and defined by our experiences and more able to move on. The difference between trauma-informed and trauma-focused therapy is often misunderstood.

Trauma-informed therapy

 

Working within a trauma-informed therapy framework means being aware of the complex impact trauma can have on our lives and how trauma can shape a person's belief system and ways of coping with life. A trauma-informed approach integrates this knowledge into all aspects of the therapeutic process but doesn't always directly target the "symptoms" of trauma (e.g. in the case of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - PTSD). 

Trauma-focused therapy

Trauma-focused therapy differs from trauma-informed therapy in that it directly targets the symptoms resulting from a traumatic event (or multiple traumatic events) by using different therapeutic techniques to help the brain process what has happened in a different way. The main two approaches utilised in Trauma-Focused therapy are Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR). I primarily work using an EMDR approach, although I am also able to adopt a CBT approach when working with trauma. 

 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) Video | Healing Trauma 

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy which is designed to help people recover from the impact traumatic events can have on our lives. EMDR is recognised by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be an effective trauma-focussed therapy. 

EMDR was initially developed by Dr Francine Shapiro in the 1980s as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, over time there has been increased research published into its effectiveness in the treatment of a range of mental health difficulties, including phobias, anxiety, self-harm and suicidality. 

When a person experiences a traumatic or distressing event, the brain can become overwhelmed and its information processing system is not able to work effectively to process and deal with the traumatic event. As a consequence, trauma memories can become "locked" in the brain and can leave people experiencing a range of difficulties including poor sleep, negative intrusive thoughts about the event, nightmares, flashbacks, low mood and anxiety. EMDR uses the brain's natural ability to process information to work through distressing memories of the traumatic event with the aim to reduce the emotional intensity of these memories. This is usually achieved by linking the traumatic memories and images with fast sets of eye movements or other types of bilateral stimulation (these can include tapping, sounds).

If you would like to find our more about EMDR, please visit the following websites:

EMDR UK&Ireland

EMDR Institute

EMDR International Association

Dr Anna Chiara Sicilia, Clinical Psychologist
Psychological Therapy and Services in Brighton and Hove
T: 07402232214
E: dr.anna.sicilia@gmail.com

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©2019 by Dr. Anna Chiara Sicilia, Chartered Clinical Psychologist