EMDR: Hope For Trauma & PTSD

Trauma & EMDR Therapy

What is Trauma?

Do you ever wonder if the patterns of thinking and behaviour in your present might have something to do with what happened in your past? You may be on to something. Trauma is the experience of reliving the emotional impact of past events over and over in our present. Trauma induces anxiety, which can include an extreme form, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Single Event: "Big T" Trauma: happens from a single event like a car accident, witnessing a difficult event (such as a first responder viewing the aftermath of a violent crime or accident), or being the survivor of a crime.

Chronic or "small t" trauma: occurs when you experience long-term stress like an illness, chronic abuse, constant stress, or a difficult environment to grow up in.

Whether what happened occurred 5 days ago or 50 years ago, you can heal and gain new hope for your future. Talk therapy, including EMDR, can help unpack troubling events and reduce or even eliminate the painful emotional connections, allowing you to access new, more empowering ways of thinking about yourself and others. The good news is that this form of counseling is available close to home for those living in Tsawwassen, Ladner and Delta

What is Trauma?
What is PTSD?

What is PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a severe form of trauma, that can come from a single event, or a chronically difficult environment like combat, domestic abuse or a childhood characterized by emotional or physical neglect. PTSD causes a person to experience a past event over and over, long after the danger is passed. It can cause chronic anxiety and coping strategies that may make the negative impact of the PTSD worse, like substance abuse, addiction and difficulty in relationships or avoiding relationships all together. Those living with PTSD often find themselves overwhelmed by negative emotions, and may struggle with things like holding down a job, dealing with the stress of parenting, etc. Symptoms can include, but aren't limited to : (for at least a month or more):

  • Intrusive thoughts about the trauma
  • Re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks and nightmares
  • Feeling "jumpy" or startled by (depending on the form of trauma) loud noises, being touched, smells, hearing certain sounds that bring back feelings of the trauma
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Avoiding people, places or events
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Feeling detached or distant from others
  • Feeling numb or having difficulty feeling positive emotions
  • Anger or irritability
  • Dissociating

Do I have PTSD? You can take this questionnaire at no charge from the US Veterans Administration


Attachment Focused EMDR can be especially helpful to those living with PTSD. This type of counselling is available close to home for those living in or near Tsawwassen, Ladner and Delta.


Why Consider EMDR
(Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)?

EMDR is a unique and effective form of psychotherapy designed to reduce or eliminate the intensity of negative emotions and/or physical symptoms related to difficult events and traumatic memories. After nearly 30 years of clinical research, it is now seen as a standard best practice in treating a variety of mental health issues. EMDR has been effective in treating:

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Phobias/Fears
  • Addictions
  • Other issues.

It is used extensively by mental health facilities supporting members of the military, veterans, and first responders

What is EMDR and What Makes it Different?

Unlike most forms of talk therapy, EMDR focuses less on talking about the event or the dysfunctional thinking, and more on the emotional experience (fear, anger, etc.) and the stressful physical symptoms (feeling tense, sick, rapid breathing, tunnel vision, craving, etc.) related to the issue being treated.

EMDR can be used either as a stand-alone approach to treatment, or in conjunction with other types of talk therapy.

The goal is for the client to be able to recall the memory or previously stressful thoughts without experiencing the unpleasant emotional or physical response that they had been burdened by in the past.

EMDR addresses both the conscious way of thinking about an issue with the (less conscious) emotional AND physical response to that thinking

Why Does it Work?

The scientific answer to that question is: We don’t yet know.

The technology does not yet exist that allows us to pinpoint why this process is so effective in the brain. There are a number of reasonable theories out there. One that makes sense to me:
We think that in trauma and/or PTSD, certain unpleasant memories/feelings or ways of thinking seem to get “stuck” in our brains instead of fading into the background like other difficult or unpleasant events in our lives. These memories repeatedly trigger a moderate or even major emotional experience, where we relive the terror, shame, grief etc. over and over. It seems like we can't get past it, no matter how much we “know” logically, that we are okay. The EMDR protocol helps to “unstick” the traumatic memory, allowing it to fade into the background, like any other unpleasant memory. This removes the "trigger" that forces the person to relive the experience, mentally, emotionally, and physically long after it is over. This creates the foundation from which the person can now see new options, where before there seemed to be no hope for any meaningful change.

What to Expect in an EMDR Session

The first 1-2 sessions will involve taking a detailed, thorough history to identify potential targets for reprocessing...

The treatment process involves a form of bilateral (alternating) stimulation such as tapping, pulsers or rapid side-to-side eye movement where the client follows the therapist’s hand movement or an LED Light Bar. The form of bilateral stimulation that feels most comfortable to the client is discussed in the first session. The therapist guiding the client through a specific protocol to help “desensitize” (reduce the intensity of) the client’s emotional response to a distressing memory or thought. This is followed by “reprocessing” which allows the client to gain greater freedom, confidence, sense of calm and/or control over their negative feelings and physical symptoms.

How Many EMDR Sessions Will I need?

As with any form of psychotherapy, the number of sessions required to obtain treatment goals differs for everyone because each person presents with their own unique issue(s). The therapeutic alliance (the quality of the relationship between the client and therapist) is also an important factor. However, it is not uncommon for EMDR clients to report experiencing some relief from troubling symptoms or thoughts related to the trauma in the first few sessions. Phobias (fear of flying, speaking, driving, spiders, etc.) tend to respond to treatment quickly, while more complex issues like PTSD, childhood abuse, addictions, chronic anxiety, depression, etc., generally require more sessions. However, every client’s experience and outcome with EMDR is unique. The client and therapist will work together to create a treatment plan that works for the client’s specific needs and objectives.

Attachment - Focused EMDR

Eileen is certified in EMDR through EMDRIA. She is also trained in Attachment-Focused EMDR through the Parnell Institute, where is she has trained in applications of AF-EMDR in healing trauma, addictions and other life stressors.

Dr. Laurel Parnell founded the Parnell Institute and Attachment-Focused EMDR. It is a unique, attachment-science informed application of EMDR that uses Attachment Theory as the lens to help identify and heal targeted beliefs and memories that may block us from being able to live the life we long for. Treatment with AF-EMDR can help us manage the stress and challenge we face in our present lives with confidence, resilience, and greater freedom from the negative beliefs and dysfunctional coping behaviours that have so often gotten in the way.