Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) negatively impacts a broad segment of the population, including crime victims, military veterans, and law enforcement personnel. The worst cases of trauma are called complex PTSD, and treating the mental health condition requires a unique approach called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR therapy represents an eight-step program that helps victims of complex PTSD to do a much better job of processing the events that unfolded before, during, and after a traumatic event.
What is Complex PTSD??
Standard PTSD develops after a client experiences one severe traumatic event. Victims of a violent crime and law enforcement personnel typically receive standard PTSD care after going through one traumatic event. Experiencing repeated traumatic events, such as fighting in a war, causes the development of complex PTSD symptoms. Enduring and unrelenting stressful situations eventually produce mental and emotional distress issues that if left untreated, can last a lifetime. Other types of unrelenting stressors include abuse and exposure to domestic violence.
Every form of complex PTSD is the prolonged and repetitive development of highly negative feelings and emotions.
How Does EMDR Therapy Help Treat Complex PTSD Symptoms?
EMDR therapy represents a type of adult individual therapy that encourages bilateral eye movement. The completion of bilateral eye movements slows the brain down enough to help victims of complex PTSD to process negative feelings and emotions. Instead of constantly reflecting on the horror that triggered complex PTSD symptoms, a client relaxes enough due to the bilateral eye movements to focus on other thoughts. EMDR therapy is widely recognized as a compassionate strategy to improve the symptoms of clients suffering from the worst cases of complex PTSD.
The eight-step approach to EMDR therapy starts with the therapist gathering the personal history of a client. Next, the therapist prepares the client for addressing negative feelings and emotions without becoming overwhelmed with stressors. The third step focuses on identifying specific negative memories associated with a traumatic event or events. This requires target development, in which the therapist encourages the client to identify disturbing beliefs, images, emotions, and body sensations. Desensitization incorporates a technique that helps the client maintain awareness of the present, while recalling specific memories of the traumatic event or events.
The therapist helps the client install new, more positive memories before ensuring the client leaves the session well-grounded mentally. A series of follow-up sessions help the client address any lingering negative feelings and emotions, while emphasizing the development of more positive thoughts.
The Bottom Line
If left untreated, the symptoms of complex PTSD make it difficult, if not impossible to start a family and hold down a steady job. Before a client begins EMDR therapy to address negative emotional issues, the therapist should stress the importance of the client developing patience, as well as a willingness to adapt to changes in the treatment programs to accommodate unique factors.
The EMDR therapy process is not linear, especially during the first few steps of the process. Successful EMDR therapy sessions depend as much on the cooperation of the client as the expertise of the therapist administering the eight-step program. Above all, an EMDR therapist must provide compassion and empathy for what the client is going through.