No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a cost-effective, non-invasive, evidence-based treatment for conditions such as: trauma, panic attacks, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, pain disorders, stress reduction, abuse, and personality disorders. Developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD in the late 1980′s, EMDR is an eight-phase treatment which comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity, and have thereby generated traumatic symptoms and/or harmful coping strategies. Through EMDR therapy, patients are able to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive. EMDR works through bilateral movements using auditory, tactile (touch) or visual processing methods, similar to what is occurring during REM sleep, to activate the brain’s natural processing and healing capabilities.
During this procedure, patients tend to “process” the memory in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution. This often results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and long held negative thoughts about the self. For example, an assault victim may come to realize that he was not to blame for what happened, that the event is really over, and, as a result he can regain a general sense of safety in his world. EMDR has been validated in Vietnam Veterans and rated by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs as a “highly recommended” treatment for trauma.
Mindfulness meditation is moment to moment awareness. It involves showing up for each of the moments of our lives, whether pleasant or unpleasant, without striving or judging. Mindfulness practice is ideal for cultivating greater awareness of the unity of mind and body, as well as of the ways the unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can undermine emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Developed by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) has evolved into a common form of complementary medicine addressing a variety of health problems. Mindfulness has been supported in research to be effective in treating concerns such as: depression, anxiety, trauma, addictions, stress, and in improving the quality of life for individuals experiencing chronic pain or illness. Research shows that Mindfulness can decrease the reliance on addictive medications while showing improvements in the management of chronic pain. Mindfulness has also been proven beneficial in improving the quality of parenting and relationships.
While the mention of hypnosis may conjure images of stage acts and people being made to cluck like a chicken for entertainment, clinical hypnosis is a widely researched and evidenced based technique that has been shown to be beneficial in addressing many concerns, including: addictions, personal growth, self-esteem, trauma, anxiety, depression, dissociation, chronic pain and illness, confidence, and sexual disorders. Hypnosis is a highly relaxed altered state of awareness, perception, or consciousness that is used to address concerns by speaking to the unconscious mind. It is a state of inner absorption, concentration, and focused attention. It’s like using a magnifying glass to focus the rays of the sun and make them more powerful. While hypnosis has been used since ancient times and has been a part of healing by psychologists and physicians for hundreds of years, it was validated as a clinical tool by the American Medical Association in 1958, and the American Psychological Association in 1960.