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Does EMDR Really Work for Trauma Symptoms? – 3 Major Benefits

It’s unfortunate that so many military personnel struggle with PTSD and trauma related to their service.

At the same time, unlike in other times of our nation’s history, there is more understanding and support than ever for veterans who have experienced trauma and need help.

In fact, you might have already heard about one treatment, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and what it can do for someone suffering from PTSD. Yet, you may wonder whether EMDR can really help with addressing your or your loved one’s trauma symptoms.

It’s okay to be skeptical.

At the same time, though, why not consider some information on EMDR treatment.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR was pioneered in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. The technique utilizes what’s called bilateral stimulation (usually moving the eyes back and forth). These movements are guided by the therapist in various ways while the client is talking with them about a target memory.

During the discussion, the patient may experience uncomfortable or distressing feelings or emotions. However, the idea is that these feelings get less severe throughout the sessions, until the memory no longer causes distress. At times, this can happen very quickly, within only a single session.

Thus, a person’s mind is able to heal itself from PTSD.

EMDR has been well researched, including in connection with military personnel suffering from war trauma. It is even discussed by the Veteran’s Administration on its website in various articles. Plus, Tricare covers EMDR treatment.

Still not completely convinced that EMDR can work for you or your loved one?

Let’s look at three of the major benefits of EMDR therapy.

1. Addresses Unwanted Thoughts

It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to have unwanted and disturbing thoughts. These thoughts can hijack your brain, causing you to experience severe distress. And that can make it really hard to have any semblance of a “normal” life. You just know that those thoughts are always lingering in the back of your mind.

However, with EMDR treatments, distressing thoughts don’t have to be emotionally triggering for you anymore. Over time, they simply become just thoughts, without the extra emotional baggage associated with the memory. Once that happens, you can still have these thoughts, but you will be able to let them go and not become hyper-focused on them.

2. Alleviates Feeling Anxious

Oftentimes people with PTSD will have trouble with anxiety. They may always be on edge, trying to anticipate a potential danger or threat.

The reason for this is actually quite simple. Your brain is still locked in survival mode. It is trying to protect you by telling you that you are in a dangerous situation. Yet, it may have been years since the traumatic events occurred and you are no longer physically in danger anymore.

EMDR allows your brain to resolve this status of high alert and stand-down. The memories of the events become integrated into your thinking and are no longer considered threats. And this means that you don’t have to feel anxious anymore.

3. Allows for a More Restful Sleep

People with PTSD often struggle with sleep issues. They can’t fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Instead, they often awaken in the middle of the night with nightmares.

In these dreams, they are transported back to the events that caused their trauma. They may wake up thinking they are back in the conflict. A veteran, for example, may yell “Get down!” or the names of deceased comrades.

As you can imagine (or perhaps know from your own experience), this not only takes a toll on a person’s mental health, but their family suffers as well. Through processing distressing memories, EMDR can alleviate nightmares and fear of going to sleep.

“Will EMDR Work Even Though I Can’t Talk about Classified Information?”

Yes, it will.

Remember, the point of EMDR is not to rehash every detail of a mission. It’s more effective with very specific instances.

For example, an IED explodes next to you or you witness a comrade be injured or even killed. That’s all a therapist needs to know to begin the EMDR process. You don’t have to say anything about who they are or any identifying information about them or your mission.

EMDR holds the potential for service members to get treatment for and resolve PTSD. It’s a proven technique that works. And, at the same time, they can honor their commitment to security and secrecy as well.

If you would like to know more about EMDR therapy for PTSD, please contact us. I would like to help you or your loved one heal from their ongoing trauma.

Author

Joshua Howell, MS, LPC, NCC, AADC, ICAADC, SAP, SAE

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