EMDR Therapist in Cupertino, CA
What are trauma/PTSD symptoms?
But what are trauma/PTSD symptoms? To help you self assess, I created the following questions. After the traumatic event(s):
- Are you in shock, denial, or disbelief, asking yourself “how could this happen to me?”?
- Are you having difficulties staying in the present and find yourself “zoning out” during the day?
- Are you experiencing more negative emotions (i.e. anger, sadness, fear or anxiety and maybe all in the same day/hour)? Or quite the opposite, are you feeling numb/detached?
- Are you experiencing feelings of guilt, shame, self-blame (i.e. I should have done something different/it’s all my fault)?
- Are you avoiding other people or situations that remind you of the trauma(s)?
- Are you experiencing physical symptoms like palpitation, startle response, racing heartbeat, agitation, aches/pains or muscle tension, fatigue, insomnia or hypersomnia (wanting to sleep all day!)?
It can feel very painful and lonely to experience any of the above mentioned symptoms. Trauma symptoms littleraly may keep us and our brain “stuck” in the past, making us feel there is no way back to normalcy. What’s most heartbreaking for me when hearing my client’s stories is that, before reaching out for help, they might have been struggling with these symptoms for so long that they truly feel hopeless and like they are somewhat “damaged/broken”.
Trauma/PTSD symptoms are a NORMAL, healthy response to an ABNORMAL events
So let me say this first and foremost: there is absolutely nothing wrong/broken with you experiencing PTSD/trauma symptoms! These symptoms are absolutely what your body and brain are built to do after facing stressful, unpredictable, traumatic events! After a traumatic event, all of us experience one, some (or all!) of the above mentioned PTSD/trauma symptoms. The reason for it is that traumatic events are often connected to our own survival, and our brain processes memories tight to survival (trauma memories) differently from not-traumatic, regular memories (i.e. what you had for dinner). Typically, our brain is able to reprocess/resolve traumatic memories on its own in a few days or weeks and PTSD/trauma symptoms disappear gradually and spontaneously. But if you are developing PTSD, trauma symptoms do not disappear (they might, in fact, get worse over time), the upsetting memories, thoughts, and emotions may continue on for months/years (if left untreated), along with the sense of being “stuck in time” when the traumatic event happened, stuck in the past. The reason for that is that our brain is trying to protect us, so that we can avoid the trauma or be prepared in case it were to happen again. However, the cost of being stuck in survival mode is very high for our mental AND physical health (yes, untreated PTSD may cause several physical, sometimes life-threatening conditions, too), and these memories may stay unresolved and make us feel horrible until we get professional help. When experiencing trauma symptoms, we are surviving, not living our lives.
EMDR Therapy in Cupertino
EMDR and trauma therapy can help you overcome PTSD/trauma symptoms
Sometimes, my clients have waited years before reaching out for EMDR/trauma therapy! Some of them have tried for years different forms of “talk therapy”, reporting that this type of therapy has been beneficial, maybe they cope better with trauma symptoms and gained understanding over their issues, but that distress/trauma symptoms are still present and impacting their lives. It is important to specify that talk therapy is a very crucial part of EMDR therapy, as it fosters the therapeutic relationship/trust between the client and the therapist, which is critical before transitioning to the EMDR therapy itself. Therefore, EMDR is just one part of the trauma healing process, and there have to be conversations beforehand so that the client feels safe and fully supported/understood by the therapist. However, as psychologist and researcher Deborah Korn, PsyD beautifully puts it “trauma is truly an injury to the brain, and its overwhelming nature is what activates the fight, flight, or freeze response” and “what EMDR is focused on is getting the brain to work functionally again. Because it can’t function properly when it’s stuck in fight, flight, freeze, or shutdown mode.”
Again, trauma memories are stored differently from any other memory. They are connected to survival and, when the distress/symptoms connected to them do not disappear on their own after a few weeks, it means that the brain needs some help to move past them and that you might be experiencing PTSD symptoms and therefore need professional help.
Therapy is expensive.
How many sessions of EMDR/trauma therapy will I need?
Hard to tell. Each client is unique and different in their needs and in their trauma history, so it’s hard to predict how long EMDR/trauma therapy will take. As mentioned before, EMDR/trauma therapy is composed of both talk therapy and EMDR reprocessing protocol. EMDR is an eight-phase treatment approach, and the first 2 phases (history taking and preparation) can sometimes take several sessions, up to months of work depending on the client. These two phases are critical, as it is in these phases that the therapeutic alliance develops and the therapist gets to know each individual client and their unique needs. For instance, If a client comes to me to resolve a single, uncomplicated traumatic incident, it might take us 2-4 sessions to fully resolve trauma symptoms. However, most of my clients struggle with what I call “complex/developmental trauma”, where multiple, prolonged, relationship trauma incidents started early in childhood and have determined current trauma symptoms. In these cases, for obvious reasons, trauma healing needs a much longer time, as we felt unsafe very early in life. It might also help to think about it this way: can you really rush the healing of something that happened over YEARS of life in a few therapy sessions? That is unlikely to be the case, unfortunately. I realize finances might not be an incentive for starting EMDR/trauma therapy, but one important thing to consider is also insurance coverage. I am an out of network provider, but if you meet medical necessity criteria, I can give you a statement called “Superbill”, and most insurance panels do provide partial reimbursement for PTSD/trauma therapy. Deciding to file claims with insurance is a highly personal choice, as sharing a mental health diagnosis with insurance might have consequences for you. I advise my clients to read about this topic before making the decision to submit insurance claims.
Top EMDR Therapist in Cupertino, CA
Are there some side effects of EMDR therapy?
I have tried talk therapy/EMDR therapy already and my trauma symptoms have not improved. I feel hopeless. Can EMDR therapy actually resolve my trauma/PTSD symptoms (this time)?
Was the therapy a form of “talk therapy” only?
As I mentioned earlier in this page, “talk therapy” is a very important part of EMDR therapy, but it is also not sufficient to heal your brain from the effect of traumatic experiences. Many clients I see have tried talk therapy for years, with no significant improvements in their trauma symptoms. Trauma impacts your brain and body, and EMDR therapy allows brain/body healing, while talk therapy prepares the client and therapist for EMDR work, so that each memory reprocessing happens in the best/smooth way possible. Talk therapy is also essential in between EMDR reprocessing, to address client feelings/thoughts and identify next memories to target/goals.
Your readiness for EMDR/trauma work:
sometimes clients really want to or are suggested to start trauma work by someone else (a friend, relative or other medical professional). That does not necessarily mean that they actually feel ready for it. In fact, as for therapy in general, EMDR therapeutic change and success is also associated with the client’s willingness and motivation to change and to be fully honest and vulnerable with their therapist. It is completely okay not to be ready now or when someone recommends trauma therapy to you. Your feelings/resistance are completely normal and understandable, what happened to you was scary and painful, and you do not need to be pressured to talk about it/work on it now. Take your time, this is an important, not easy step. Simply know that, whenever you feel ready, you are not alone in your healing journey and effective help is available for you!
The specialization of the EMDR therapist you worked with and how they matched your unique needs:
EMDR therapists, like other therapists or medical professionals, often have a specific field of specialization (i.e. OCD, chronic pain, addictions, complex trauma/relationship trauma, dissociative disorders, personality disorders, eating disorders etc). Sometimes (this happens often) a client reaches out to a therapist to work on something specific (i.e. complex/relationship trauma), and after the memories arounds that issue get reprocessed, the client still has symptoms, as something else might come up as connected to those memories (i.e. body image/eating disorder issues that did not come up initially and are impacting that client’s relationship dynamics). Also, maybe that therapist was not a good fit for the client (we are all humans and no therapist, no matter how experienced, can help all the clients and no client will feel comfortable with all therapists). Feeling comfortable/trusting your therapist is probably as important as the therapist’s level of expertise. For this very reason, at the end of each free consultation, I always invite my clients to connect to at least one other therapist with a similar specialization, to see which therapist they felt most comfortable opening up with. This is truly important!
Remember, according to EMDRIA “EMDR therapy is extensively researched and widely recognized as effective trauma therapy. EMDR therapy is recognized as evidenced-based treatment for PTSD and other trauma and stressor disorders in treatment guidelines published by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the World Health Organization, and a growing number of national and international organizations. Treatment guidelines are based on reviews that evaluate the research of established evidence-based mental health treatments.”
Healing from trauma is possible! Schedule a free, 20 min consultation with me today here!