Trauma is often a focus during therapy sessions. Some traumas are smal like a hurtful comment by a friend made in grade school, or a disappointment in a birthday party from our childhood. Other traumas are chronic like living in fear of your parent, a violent family system, continual criticism or neglect. There are also major traumas like militatry trauma, childhood abuse, motor vehicle accidents, rape, major losses and others. Traumas can often result in ongoing PTST (post traumatic stress disorder) symptoms. All seem to linger in our subconscious showing up when they are "triggered" by similar events in our life: a war sound like a back fire of a car engine; someone leaves us in a relationship; or a behavior your partner. While traumas are common to all, some continue as unprocessed and provide a different level of difficulty. If these events are not fully "processed" their energy remains easily triggered in the Amygdala area of the brain (the fight or flight region). If these memories have been processed the energy becomes part of a storage system in the Neocortex of the brain; an area similar to a library of factual information without the emotions or disturbance of the event.
EMDR (Eye Movement, Deprocessing and Reprograming)
Historicaly treatment for trauma involved having the person revisit the event while it is reviewed in a safe place and in a safe relationship thus "desensitizing" the person to the triggering effect of the trauma. In the 1990s a new treatment appeared and has now been extensively researched that is much more effective and less painful for the individual in treatment. It is called EMDR or Eye Movemnt Desensitization and Reprocessing. Treatment involves a complete assessment and life history. A trauma list is developed that targets issues representative of major events or patterns in life that become triggered. Each "target" on the trauma list gets a disturbance score from 0-10 with "0" being neutral and "10" the highest disturbance imagined by the person. This score is determined when the memory is "brought up" and measured by the disturbance felt at that present moment. Using eye movement, also called bilateral stimulation, the event is processed to a disturbance level of "0". Once the "0" level has been reached it rarely changes - thus the assumption that the trauma has been processed and now resides in the neocortex or "library" of the brain. The memory is there but the disturbance is eliminated.
EMDR can be the focus of the therapy treatment or an additional component to the treatment plan. Sometimes the treatment is "referred out" to a therapist trained in EMDR for specific purposes. The EMDR therapy process consists of a few sessions of history and assessment. A trauma list is created. Target areas of trauma for treatment with EMDR are usually 1-3 sessions each. Threads of each trauma that are linked to other traumas are simultaneously processed with disturbance scores (0-10) going down in traumas not treated with EMDR. Thus treatment speeds up as previous traumas are processed.