EMDR - Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing - is a trauma resolution technique developed in 1989. Since then, multiple studies have been published finding EMDR effective in the treatment of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There is some evidence to suggest it can also be useful in resolving symptoms related to prolonged stress, such as alcoholism, domestic violence, childhood abuse and neglect. EMDR often works when talking about the trauma hasn't helped.
EMDR uses brief visualization of traumatic memories while engaged in sets of bilateral stimulation to help rapidly resolve the trauma. Bilateral stimulation involves behaviors that get the left brain to fire, followed rapidly by getting the right brain to fire. This can involve back and forth eye movements, listening to tones on earphones that switch from ear to ear, or holding small buzzers that vibrate first in one hand, then the other. It is theorized that bilateral stimulation enhances the ability of the brain to re-wire, effectively moving the trauma from one part of the brain where it's connected to intense and overwhelming emotion, to another part of the brain where we have access to logic, self-calming, and a sense that time has passed and we're no longer in danger. Both the visualization and the bilateral stimulation sets are brief to avoid the client being re-traumatized.
Eventually, sometimes within the first few EMDR sessions, the client will get to a place where thinking of the trauma no longer causes intense distress. Resolving the trauma can lead to fewer or even no PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) symptoms and changes in behavior patterns that were related to the unresolved trauma. Sometimes a series of EMDR sessions is needed to help address long term stressors or traumas (vs. a single incident of trauma such as a car accident or a one-time assault). Fortunately, to achieve progress, we don't have to work on every single trauma you've ever had. Often, clearing one trauma will lead to clearing other traumas that are similar or that happened around the same time as the trauma we're targeting in an EMDR session.
Lifespan Integration is a powerful yet gentle technique that can quickly and effectively resolve past issues that are causing current life problems. It is a method that heals without re-traumatizing.
Talking about past trauma or abuse in therapy doesn't always help people to move beyond it. Lifespan Integration uses a psychological technique called an "affect bridge" to find a memory that's connected to the current problem. The therapist guides the client to re-visit this past memory in their imagination, bringing into the past whatever is needed to resolve the memory through visualization. Then the therapist leads the client through time to the present using a Time Line of memories from the client's life. This Time Line of memories and images proves to the client's mind-body system that time has passed and the trauma is over. This "proof" can sometimes occur at a deeper level than is possible with with talk therapy methods.
After doing Lifespan Integration, the client will no longer feel overwhelmed when the memory is triggered. PTSD symptoms such as flashbacks, intrusive and repetitive memories and nightmares can also be eliminated. Lifespan Integration can also be helpful in resolving depression and anxiety by re-processing life experiences that in some way fuel current symptoms and behaviors.
Lifespan Integration can also work well with people who have trouble remembering their pasts. During Lifespan Integration therapy, clients who begin with memory gaps are eventually able to connect the pieces of their lives into a coherent whole.
Another area Lifespan Integration can be useful is in Attachment Repair. Many people have experienced serious ruptures in their early connections to their parents or other caregivers. These ruptures can be caused by the parent being impaired in such a way that they struggle to provide for their child's emotional and physical needs consistently enough that the child grows up with a strong sense that they are worthy of being loved and taken care of. Parental impairments can be caused by things like substance abuse, post-partum depression, domestic violence in the home, poverty and mental illness. With Lifespan Integration for Attachment Repair, we take advantage of the fact that the brain doesn't distinguish well between what we visualize and what actually happens. We use
visualization of the client's younger self getting the attention and care they needed, and this creates a new internal template of ourselves as worthy and lovable. This can help with self-esteem issues and self-destructive behavior.
Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy
It has long been proven in the field of psychology that our cognitions - what we think - very much affect how we feel and function. Yet we are often unaware of the kinds of things we're telling ourselves in our own minds, the stories we believe about ourselves, others and the life situations we encounter. Many of these thoughts and stories are incomplete, irrational, overly negative or destructive. We react to these thoughts and beliefs unconsciously and automatically, often without ever realizing where our behavior and feelings come from.
With Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, we learn techniques to make those unconscious thoughts and beliefs conscious, so that we can fully examine and alter them if necessary.
'Mindfulness' is simply slowing down and observing and compassionately accepting our thoughts and feelings. This is not only calming, and thus good for emotion regulation, but it also allows us to get to a more rational, more positive frame of mind. A variety of mindfulness techniques are taught and practiced in session so that clients have a whole toolbox of methods to call on when upset or under stress.
Once a client has learned to more safely and calmly tune into what's going on inside them, they and the therapist work together to determine which thoughts, stories and beliefs are destructive to self and others. Examining these stories in therapy is part of what helps us to move away from those that are inaccurate and don't work for us.
There is research verifying the effectiveness of Mindfulness techniques in dealing with depression, anxiety, emotion regulation challenges, relapse prevention and pain management through getting in touch with those unexamined thoughts and feelings and moving them towards more adaptive, less destructive thoughts and reactions.
Mindfulness techniques are simple to learn, and with practice, they can provide life long help in dealing with feelings and keeping centered during times of stress. A wonderful side effect of Mindfulness practice is an increased ability to be aware of and live in the present moment. This results in feeling more engaged and more alive.