How To Heal Trauma And PTSD With EMDR Therapy?

EMDR Trauma Therapy in San Antonio
Picture of Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam Grimaldo, LMFT, LPC

Sam is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Professional Counselor in San Antonio. He specializes in working with couples to recover from disconnection caused by trauma or addiction.

Table of Contents

How to Know If I have trauma or PTSD?

Do you suffer from painful memories from the past?

Are you suffering from flashbacks or nightmares?

Are your relationships being negatively impacted by an inability to trust?

Do you sometimes have emotional reactions you feel you cannot control?

Do you shutdown during conflict or hard emotions?

Or do you often experience any of the following symptoms?

  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Substance abuse or addiction
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Shame or Worthlessness
  • Numbing
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Difficulty remembering the past
  • Loss of Interest

If this sounds like you or you can relate, then you could be suffering from trauma or a diagnosable disorder known as PTSD. If so, EMDR therapy might be an option to help you identify and recover from past traumatic experiences.

EMDR Therapy in San Antonio. Trauma Therapy San Antonio.

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based treatment that has been proven to help thousands of people recovery from childhood trauma, combat trauma, single incident trauma (ex: a car wreck), and other forms of traumatic stress.

EMDR can help you process the stuck traumatic memories so you can be more present and alive in the here and now without lingering symptoms. EMDR helps to activate unprocessed memories from the past, analyze these memories by digesting them fully and filing them away in an adaptive and functional way (Reprocessing).

Old memories that have not been fully or adequately processed can continue to be triggered by present-day situations and often show up as an outsized reaction to what is really happening.

This takes a major toll on the life and body of the individual, who often reports feeling like their body has been hijacked in triggering moments.

After EMDR therapy, you will still remember and be able to tell the story about what happened but without the intense emotional charge and fight or flight response that was so disturbing before EMDR.

Overall, effective treatment is not just about subtraction but addition also. It is not only helpful to remove symptoms of trauma or PTSD but also to help enhance the quality of day-to-day experience of living.

How Does EMDR Work?

This is done by identifying symptoms, such as negative beliefs, images, sensations in the body, or strong emotions that seem to be impacting the present-day experience.

Once these symptoms are identified an EMDR therapist helps identify the memories that gave rise to these symptoms.

Next, a therapist facilitates a reprocessing of this memory or event to reduce the emotional charge that surrounds it.

This emotional charge often feels overwhelming and usually results in interpersonal conflict, avoidance, or shutting down.

A big part of reprocessing with EMDR includes the use of bilateral stimulation (BLS), a technique that is used to unlock the brain in order to process and integrate dysfunctional stored information.  BLS includes alternating eye movement, sounds, or taps.

When a person experiences strong emotional reactions they start to feel out of control. This feeling can then lead to the belief “something is wrong with me” or “I am losing my mind”.

This often results in shame that then leads to a downward spiral and without intervention has a major influence on a person’s beliefs about their capability, lovability, and worth.

What is Bilateral Stimulation?

Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) is the technique used to activate the brain so that it can begin to process and integrate dysfunctional stored information – the locked traumatic memories – in a more adaptive way.

BLS is a disarmingly simple process that creates a powerful effect. This is accomplished with eye movements, tones, music, hand pulsers, or sometimes tapping.

While it continues to be debated about exactly how BLS works, a dominate theory is that BLS mimics the same process created in REM sleep. During REM sleep, the brain allows the appropriate neural connections to make the needed associations. The memory is fully processed and transformed to a more adaptive, usable form.


How EMDR can help you heal from past trauma

Identify trauma symptoms –Trauma is not always remembered in words or part of a coherent narrative. Sometimes the living legacy of trauma are the symptoms people are left with.

This can be referred to as the living legacy of trauma because it stays with people through there reactions, emotions, beliefs, and interpretations.

Our mind and body continue to respond to the present based off of assumptions from our past lived experience. Getting clarity and identifying the symptoms of trauma that are preventing you from fully engaging in life is the first step.

Develop effective coping skills – Before an individual is ready to jump into reprocessing old memories, they must first have good internal and external coping skills.

A major art of EMDR is to establish healthy ways of dealing with stress and helping a person increase their ability to regulate strong emotions, sensations, and thoughts.

Change negative beliefs – Gain insight and clarity on core beliefs that have resulted from past experiences. Due to the trauma being unprocessed, the memory is stored in the brain with all the old thoughts emotions, and sensations experienced at the time of the incident.

Without knowing, this belief is the meaning we gave to the experience and continues to be used as a way to interpret the present. This belief limits the ability to experience reality as it truly is.

Reduce emotional Distress – EMDR therapy for trauma helps to reduce the intense emotions that continue to surround a traumatic memory.

After processing is completed, you will still remember the event but without the stress response and emotional dysregulation that previously accompanied it.

When strong emotional reactions are reduced, a person is able to feel more present and in control of themselves.

Regain a sense of safety- The most significant part of mental health is being able to feel safe with other people.

Safe connections are the foundation to meaningful and satisfying lives.

After trauma the world is experienced with a different nervous system that has an altered perception of risk and safety.

EMDR therapy can help you learn to respond appropriately to danger but, even more, to recover the capacity to experience safety and relaxation.

It’s important to be able and live effectively between sessions, therefore, shutting down sessions with safety and relaxation protocols in a fundamental part of safe EMDR processing of traumatic events.

Reclaim wholeness, worth, and future potential- EMDR can help you feel fully alive and able to absorb more of your daily experiences. You are able to have insights into the past and changes in emotions, body reactions, and behaviors.

Old beliefs about oneself, others and the world often change, which opens the future up to new possibilities. 


Conclusion: Are You Ready? 

The end result of successful EMDR is adaptive resolution of the trauma.

This means the emotional charge is reduced or eliminated and there is an objective view or understanding of the incident.

When the body- mind is allowed to heal, the end result is wisdom, compassion, empowerment, and a sense of wholeness.

Like all psychotherapies, EMDR therapy is both a science and an art. It is not however, like following a recipe. Treatment is individualized and your process might look different because you are a unique individual and your trauma is specific to you.

Schedule a consultation and see if trauma therapy in San Antonio is a good next step for you.


Schedule a Consultation Today! 

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