Effective Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Therapy for Survivors
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a serious challenge that occurs for people who survive traumatic events. PTSD is well known as a condition experienced by soldiers who have been subjected to traumatic experiences, but can also develop from any number of causes. Survivors of physical and sexual abuse can experience PTSD, as well as survivors of crime, natural disasters and even fights or car accidents.
While there is no best way of treating PTSD, there are several methods, including EMDR, that can provide significant relief for people who are struggling with the symptoms of their past trauma. While not exactly an exposure therapy for PTSD, EMDR uses a more structured approach to provide a safe and supportive framework for clients to delve back into their traumatic memories and process the pain so that they can experience lasting relief.
Our goal is to help you integrate your PTSD and trauma so that it no longer holds you back but simply becomes another part of your history. Processing trauma provides you with the freedom to live your life without debilitating symptoms.
Effective Treatments for PTSD
PTSD can be a long-term struggle that continues to cause challenges in a survivor's life for months or years. We utilize some of the most effective methods to address this complex issue. When undergoing PTSD treatment EMDR can be a powerful tool to help you work through your traumatic experiences in a way that has no side effects and a high success rate.
Our goal is to support you in processing your traumatic memories so that events from your past can be learned from but will no longer trigger negative feelings in your body and mind.
What is the Best Treatment for PTSD?
Of the options for PTSD treatment EMDR has emerged as one of the most effective methods currently available. Unlike cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, which focuses heavily on discussing unhelpful patterns of thinking and behavior and developing strategies to cope with them, EMDR encourages you to re-imagine aspects of a traumatic event so that you can process the painful emotions and release the charge associated with it, naturally promoting a shift back to calm and healthy thinking.
Although you will be asked to process traumatic memories while in session, EMDR is not a form of exposure therapy for PTSD. Prolonged exposure therapy requires extensive homework and participation in activities that you are actively trying to avoid since the occurrence of the trauma. EMDR sessions, on the other hand, are supported by a robust framework of safety and effectiveness that has been established over the past thirty years and involve very little work outside of treatment.
While the most effective treatments for PTSD will be different for everybody, we feel that EMDR can provide most clients with tremendous relief in a short period of time. Best of all, EMDR does not require you to openly talk about or discuss what happened if you are not comfortable doing so, and it even works as an effective child PTSD treatment, in that the only prerequisites are the ability to imagine past memories and follow simple instructions.
PTSD treatment centers that focus on feeling-based modalities like EMDR need to ensure that there is a heavy emphasis on creating safety and gathering resources prior to emotional processing. We always perform a safe space exercise before getting into any triggering material so that you have a safe and comfortable place to return to if feelings get overwhelming. Not only does this support your ability to work more deeply into past trauma, but it also provides enhanced trust in the process, as it is very clear that your safety is a top priority.
"...today more than 20 scientifically controlled studies of EMDR have proven its effectiveness in the treatment of traumatic and other disturbing life experiences.” – Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.
PTSD Treatment EMDR Studies
There have been several independent and well controlled studies that have shown EMDR to be an effective treatment for PTSD. The Department of Veterans Affairs strongly recommends EMDR as a best treatment for PTSD. Below is a summary of the studies that have been conducted to demonstrate effectiveness.
• A 2012 study included 22 people and found that EMDR helped 77 percent of individuals with a psychotic disorder or PTSD. It significantly reduces symptoms, including anxiety, depression, delusions and hallucinations.
• A 2007 study of 41 people shows that 4 sessions of EMDR was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms after an earthquake, including grief, fear, intrusive thoughts and depression.
• A 2004 study of 67 participants showed that even a small number of EMDR sessions can result in lasting benefits that are maintained over time.
• A 2002 study compared EMDR to exposure therapy and found that EMDR was more effective at treating the symptoms of PTSD with a lower dropout rate from participants.
One of the most promising aspects to EMDR as opposed to cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD and exposure therapy is that there is little to no homework that is required of a client between sessions. Simply undergoing treatment can provide tremendous relief in a relatively short period of time. EMDR makes a great child PTSD treatment and can even work for people who are not willing or able to discuss their trauma in person. PTSD treatment centers should absolutely offer proven modalities like EMDR to address the complex symptoms that survivors struggle with. Our intensive therapy retreats support the effectiveness of EMDR, as you will undergo several full days of processing and significant relief of symptoms can be achieved within a single week of treatment.
PTSD Treatment EMDR Endorsements
There are several organizations that list EMDR as a treatment for PTSD. Guidelines are based on reviews of evidence-based mental health treatments and the research related to them:
• American Psychological Association (2017)
• Phoenix Australia – Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health (2013)
• World Health Organization (2013)
• American Psychiatric Association(2004)
A 2020 study shows that EMDR appears to be the most cost-effective intervention for adults with PTSD, ranking above other options including trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy for PTSD, self-help with support and SSRI antidepressant medication. It seems that every year more and more evidence accumulates that EMDR is a tremendous way to diffuse the complex and often physically and emotionally crippling effects of PTSD on survivors.
A variety of studies show that PTSD is equivalent between military populations and civilians and that there is no difference in the potential for symptoms exhibited between the two groups after an experience of trauma. This seems to demonstrate that the symptoms experienced by people with ptsd are less related to their training level in preparation for a certain type of trauma or intense life experience and more about the trauma itself. Simply put, there is no proven method to prepare a person for battle or a natural disaster, although the upside is that the same treatments seem to be effective in addressing trauma regardless of the background of the individual.
It is important to reiterate that there are several effective treatments for PTSD. During our intensive retreats, we utilize what we feel are the best and most effective modalities currently available to help you experience results as quickly as possible. This is why we prefer to utilize EMDR and IFS, as they are effective against a wide range of symptoms and diagnoses and go far beyond PTSD to address many other issues that may have been affecting you even before a particular trauma was experienced.
The History of PTSD
It is likely that humans have experienced similar psychological and physiological reactions to trauma since the beginning of time. Whether an attack by a saber tooth tiger or a modern day car crash, the body's adaptive mechanisms are intended to protect us from the overwhelming nature of trauma so that we can continue performing the functions of daily life. Ironically, it is often this protective mechanism that goes overboard, causing crippling symptoms that make the basic elements of everyday living practically impossible. It is our primary goal to help you process negative emotions and restore balance in your brain and nervous system so that you can return to your life and family and leave debilitating symptoms behind.
The first discussion of PTSD as we know it happened in 1761 when the Austrian physician Josef Leopold wrote about "nostalgia" experienced by soldiers who had seen battle. Among those who were exposed to active combat there were reports of anxiety, sleep problems, feeling sad and missing home.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), US doctor Jacob Mendez Da Costa studied soldiers with what appeared to be cardiac symptoms including rapid pulse, anxiety and trouble breathing. The terms "Soldier's heart" or "irritable heart" were used to describe the condition and it was believed that an over-stimulation of the nervous system was to blame for the symptoms that soldiers were experiencing. At the time, drugs would be prescribed before soldiers were sent back into battle.
In 1919, after World War I ended, PTSD-like symptoms were often referred to as "shell shock", as it was thought that they were related to the nearby explosion of artillery shells. It was thought that this was due to damage to the brain caused by the impact of the explosions, although this viewpoint changed as more evidence gathered to show that soldiers who were not exposed to explosions still presented with similar symptoms. At the time, the only available therapeutic interventions in European hospitals were "hydrotherapy" and "electro-shock therapy" combined with hypnosis.
World War II brought about a slightly revised perspective on the symptoms related to active combat. The term "battle fatigue" was often used to describe soldiers who became exhausted and weary from constant battle. Almost half of all military discharges were said to be due to combat exhaustion. The main focus at the time was on preventing stress and promoting recovery, specifically to get soldiers back on the battlefield.
In 1952, the American Psychiatric Association released the first Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-I), which included the term "gross stress reaction". This diagnosis was applied to people who were considered relatively normal, but presented with symptoms related to traumatic events such as disasters or combat. The biggest problem with this early understanding was that it was thought that trauma would resolve itself relatively quickly. As we now know, PTSD symptoms can persist for an exceedingly long time and often only resolve when a purposeful intervention is initiated.
The diagnosis was removed from the DSM-II in 1968 and did not emerge again until the DSM-III was released in 1980. This largely stemmed from research involving Vietnam vets, Holocaust survivors and sexual trauma victims. It was finally established that there were links between trauma experienced in wartime situations and issues in post-military civilian life. It was not until The DSM-5 came out in 2013 that it was understood that PTSD is actually relatively common. Data shows that about 4% of American men and 10% of American women will be diagnosed with PTSD within their lifetime.
It is now well understood that children can experience this condition as well and selecting an effective child PTSD treatment is of the utmost importance. Recommended therapeutic modalities are still catching up to the latest research. The most common recommendations are Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and exposure therapy for PTSD. EMDR and other feeling-based modalities are still emerging as powerful tools to address this widespread condition.