Whether you call it shell shock, soldier’s heart, battle fatigue, combat neurosis, or the more modern term “post-traumatic stress injury,” post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is as old as civilization itself. Its described in 3000-year-old Assyrian clay tablets and Herodotus’ history of the Battle of Marathon. The name is new; the disorder is not.
Despite its long association with military veterans, PTSD can affect anyone. The defining word is trauma. That can be a sexual assault, a car accident, a natural disaster like the Edmonton tornado, domestic abuse, the sudden loss of a loved one, and even invasive medical procedures. As a clinical psychiatrist, the most amazing thing to me isn’t how we’ve renamed and redefined PTSD over the last 40 years. It’s how successful we’ve become at both recognizing and treating PTSD.
PTSD is a treatable condition. Hold on to that fact.
I use and advocate for evidence-based PTSD therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, also known as EMDR.
Let’s talk about EMDR.
What is EMDR and How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR is a psychotherapy that combines sensory input like eye movements or tapping a finger with recalling a traumatic event. Unlike some other therapies, EMDR does not require you to explain the event in great detail. There’s also no homework unless it’s combined with another therapy.
Does EMDR therapy work for PTSD?
Yes. Multiple studies report significant improvement in at least 77% of PTSD patients with even better outcomes for single-trauma patients.
Why do some researchers consider EMDR to be controversial, and is EMDR an effective treatment for PTSD?
When you begin researching EMDR, you’ll likely stumble across its Wikipedia page and see where some within the psychological community criticize both the method and the research behind it. These are common criticisms for nearly all psychotherapy studies, especially when they involve newer therapies like EMDR.
The biggest problem — and this applies to all psychotherapy trials — is how do you define whether it works. With a blood pressure medication trial, all the researcher needs to do is look at at the numbers. You can’t put a number on improved relationships or feeling less jumpy.
EMDR’s research studies aren’t perfect. No psychotherapy study is. What I can say is that my client outcomes are consistent with the EMDR studies. In my opinion, EMDR is an effective treatment for PTSD. In other words, EMDR works.
How does EMDR therapy focus on trauma?
EMDR’s 8 phase process is a journey from your past to your future.
In the first phase, we start by discussing your history and developing a treatment plan together. This phase is about getting to know each other and gaining insight into your unique situation. We start by working together to identify which events we should target. Then, we’ll talk about how learning new communications skills and changing certain behaviors might help you process these past events.
From there, you’ll learn techniques to handle emotional distress. Then we’ll work on processing one particular event. After that, we seek closure. Finally, we look back at where you were when you started your EMDR for PTSD treatment and where you are now.
Throughout this process, I want you to remember this. PTSD does not define you. You are not damaged. Your experiences do not make you less than anyone else; they make you more.
Let’s beat this thing. Call my Edmonton, Alberta office and schedule a consultation today.