December 3, 2018

How EMDR Aids Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Recovery

Written by Rachel Eddins

Posted in Trauma, Grief & Loss and with tags: EMDR, PTSD/Trauma

The healing steps toward complex post-traumatic stress disorder recovery can be varied and many. Complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) is an increasingly common psychological disorder. Often, treatment for complex PTSD may involve cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), group therapy, and other forms of therapy, including:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Internal family systems therapy

These are just a few examples. However, more and more, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (or EMDR) has shown to be a productive and successful choice for anyone in this situation. To explore this trend, let’s first define both C-PTSD and EMDR.

What is Complex PTSD?

The most fundamental distinction between PTSD and C-PTSD relates to the duration and frequency of the trauma endured. PTSD is a response to a singular traumatic event. These events can range widely — from a natural disaster to physical assault and beyond.

C-PTSD is a response to an ongoing trauma, something that relentlessly takes place over an extended period of time. A common example relates to serial physical, sexual, or emotional abuse — or any combination of the three forms.

Symptoms of C-PTSD are quite broad but often include:

  • Flashbacks and nightmares
  • Physical symptoms when recalling the trauma
  • Sleep issues
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Easily startled
  • Negative self-image
  • Avoidance
  • Problems with emotional regulation
  • Dissociation
  • Preoccupation with the abuse and/or the abuser


What is EMDR?

If you experience a physical wound, it won’t heal if it is regularly re-injured. EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that works on a similar truth. The idea is to “block” the haunting memories so that your brain has time to heal from the initial damage. While other forms of recovery rely on talk therapy or medication, EMDR is based on the patient’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. Research shows that such eye movements can reduce the impact of emotionally-charged memories.

During a session, you will follow the therapist’s moving hands with your eyes. You will be asked to recall both a traumatic event and the feelings that the event provokes. The patient continues to focus on the external stimulus (the moving finger) while discussing any new thoughts they have about their trauma. This cycle is repeated until the patient’s reported level of distress has decreased enough to include some new and positive information.

How EMDR Can Aid Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Recovery

While more work has to be done to directly identify the mechanisms of EMDR, it is believed to build new connections in your memory. These connections link the trauma-related memories with the positive, new information created during the session.

Over time, the positive information takes hold. This allows it to have a stronger influence on your perceptions and behaviors than trauma-related thinking. Traumatic events create memories that often go unprocessed. The dual focus of an EMDR session facilitates processing and thus, healing.

Besides such groundbreaking and proven effects, EMDR for complex post-traumatic stress disorder recovery is also:

  • Cost-effective
  • Non-invasive
  • Short-term

Treatment can involve as few as 6 to 12 sessions that run from 60 to 90 minutes. These sessions can take place once or twice a week.

Where Can You Learn More?

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Complex PTSD, it can feel daunting to figure out where and how to start. It’s essential to get yourself a qualified guide.

Reach out to an experienced therapist to talk about something as unusual as EMDR. Your complex post-traumatic stress disorder recovery is not a path to tread alone. At Eddins Counseling Group, in Houston, TX, we have counselors with extensive experience in EMDR and trauma therapy. Call us at 832-559-2622 or book an appointment online. With the support of a skilled EMDR counselor, you have the support you need to work towards healing.

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