The Number 1 Trauma Treatment: EMDR Explained

Lucky us!  Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III, trauma specialist, psychodramatist and all around amazing therapist has shared his insights and explained that complicated title: Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, also known as EMDR.  The following is a handout Scott put together for his clients to help explain what EMDR is and how it's done:

EMDR: Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

Often, when something traumatic happens, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, etc.  Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up. It can be the basis for a lot of discomfort and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness that we can’t seem to control. These are really the emotions connected with the old experience that are being triggered.

EMDR therapy for PTSD in Bryn Mawr and West Chester

What is EMDR?

 Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a late-stage, trauma resolution method.  Developed in the late 1980's, EMDR currently has more scientific research as a treatment for trauma than any other non-pharmaceutical intervention. Based on empirical evidence as well as thousands of client and clinician testimonials, EMDR has proven an efficacious and rapid method of reprocessing traumatic material.

EMDR appears to assist in processing of traumatic information, resulting in enhanced integration - and a more adaptive perspective of the traumatic material. The utilization of EMDR has been shown to be effective with a variety of conditions including generalized and specific anxieties, panic attacks, PTSD symptoms (such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks), dissociative disorders, mood disorders and other traumatic experiences. Theoretically, EMDR is about integration - bilateral hemispheric (right/left brain) integration; triune brain (brain stem, limbic system and cerebral cortex) integration; and mind/body integration, but practically, it’s about convincing the mind and body that the traumatic event is, indeed over. EMDR helps to put the past in the past, where it belongs, instead of staying stuck in it (feeling like it is happened all over again in the present-with the same thoughts, emotions and body sensations- that accompanied the event in the past).

The eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow your brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM, or dream, sleep: The eye movements may be involved in processing the unconscious material. The important thing to remember is that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and you are the one in charge.

How is EMDR Done?  (Parnell, 2006)

  • Establishment of Safety and Resources - Safety within the therapeutic relationship and safety within each individual EMDR session. During each EMDR session, your therapist will begin by activating your own internal resources. (S)he will guide you in an imaginal, multisensory imagery exercise designed to activate images, emotions and body sensations of safety, protection, nurture and comfort. Once these images have been activated, the actual trauma reprocessing will begin.
  • Activating the Traumatic Memory Network - The therapist will ask a series of questions regarding the traumatic memory. The purpose of these questions (or script) is to activate the entire traumatic memory network.
  • Adding Alternating Bilateral Stimulation - Once the entire traumatic memory is activated, the therapist will add alternating bilateral stimulation using:

a) buzzing in your hands by turning on the Theratapper

b) alternating auditory tones via headphones or ear buds

c) moving his/her hands back and forth, so you may visually track the movement

  • Reestablishment of Safety - regardless of whether the traumatic material was completely processed or not, the session will end at a pre-set time. Before you leave, you will be stable, embodied, oriented and calm. Depending on you and your therapist’s preferences, this may be accomplished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to re-activating your own internal resources, breathing exercises, prolonged muscle relaxation, etc.

Looking to continue EMDR therapy?

-You might begin by asking your IOP/PHP counselor for a recommended outpatient counselor who is skilled in EMDR.

-At the EMDR International Association website (EMDRIA.org) you can navigate to the “Find a Therapist” tab and search for a certified EMDR therapist in your community.

 The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies.

(Giacomucci 2017)(References: EMDRIA; Linda Curran; Laurel Parnell)

Scot Giacomucci, EMDR trauma and psychodrama specialist in west chester, pa.

Scott Giacomucci, MSS, LSW, CTTS, CET III is a certified trauma treatment specialist and licensed social worker in Pennsylvania. He is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where he received his Masters in Social Service (MSS) with a concentration in clinical social work. He facilitates trauma treatment services at Mirmont Treatment Center serving a variety of populations including young adults and emergency responders (veterans, police, fire, etc..) in both individual therapy and group sessions. Scott has a gentle, non-judgmental treatment approach that honors the inherent worth of each individual. He utilizes a blend of treatment modalities including both traditional talk therapy and experiential therapy which have been research-proven as the treatment of choice for treating trauma. 

To learn more about Scott Giacomucci and the work he does, you can visit his website at: http://sgiacomucci.com/

Any comments or questions?  We'd love to hear from you!  Please comment below.  For confidential questions, email TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com.  If you need help finding an EMDR therapist, please call 610-314-8402, I'd be happy to help.

How to Find an Expert on PTSD & Trauma for Therapy on The Main Line of Philadelphia

The Main Line of Philadelphia

Philadelphia trauma therapy, ptsd, emdr

is a very special place to live.  If you already live here, you know how unique this place is - if you don't live here, you are in for quite a treat.  The suburban area to the west of Philadelphia has been referred to as The Main Line because of the main train line that connects Philadelphia to all the beautiful towns built up along the train tracks: Lower Merion includes Overbrook, Merion, Bala Cynwyd, Wynnewood, Narberth, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr and Rosemont.  Further out we have Radnor, Villanova, Wayne, St. Davids, Berwyn, Paoli, Malvern, Exton and Frazier.  Each town is unique and has it’s own spin on charm.

Finding an expert trauma therapist on the Main Line of Philadelphia

bryn mawr therapy, counseling, trauma, ptsd, emdr

seems harder than it should be.  With Bryn Mawr's Graduate School of Social Work close by, Villanova University, Rosemont College, Saint Joseph's University, Widener, Immaculata, Cabrini, Ursinus and not to mention University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore and LaSalle, we have so many talented therapists, social workers and counselors.  So, how do you find the therapist who knows just how to help you manage your post-traumatic stress symptoms?  How do you find the counselor you can click with and trust to guide you through an evidence-based method of healing your past traumatic memories?  Choosing a therapist is a very personal decision.  You can have three great therapists, but if you don’t feel safe with them, what’s the point?  If you are looking for a counselor, psychologist, life coach or therapist - I'd like to help you find someone who can help.

Here are some ways to search

Educate Yourself About Methods that Work for PTSD

ptsd, emdr, trauma therapist, counseling, main line

When you have PTSD, there are only a few ways of treating your symptoms that have been studied and proven to effectively reduce or eliminate symptoms.  Those nightmares you’ve been dealing with, the heightened startle response, hypervigilance, and avoidance of triggering situations – those are the things that get in the way of your life.  These are the issues you’ll want to be sure your therapist knows how to help you manage and heal, not just talk about.  One of the top researched methods for eliminating these symptoms is a method called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

ptsd, emdr, main line counseling, therapy

EMDR has been studied and proven as an evidence-based treatment method.  You can learn more about EMDR and how it works here.  Here is a short explanation: when we have traumatic memories, the memories tend to get stuck on one side of the brain and our body tries to heal it by re-playing it over and over, but it stays stuck.  EMDR is a technique that stimulates each side of the body alternately while the patient processes the traumatic material.  This technique helps the brain move the traumatic memory from one side of the body through to be able to process it so it’s not stuck on a loop any longer.  You can find therapists who are trained and certified to utilize EMDR by going on the EMDRIA.org website or asking people who know therapists in the area.  Think about asking friends who have or know therapists, your doctor or someone at your school.  Therapists that come highly recommended and are known to work with PTSD through EMDR methods are a good way to make sure they have a good reputation.  

Google

Type into Google your town and the issue you are looking for help with.  For example, "Bryn Mawr and PTSD" or "Rosemont and Trauma" and see what comes up.  In the top listings that come up in your search, you will hopefully see some links to therapists that specialize in your particular need and are trained in EMDR.    

Psychology Today

What you will most likely see is a result that links to a Psychology Today profile for therapists in your area that have indicated these specialties.  Psychology Today is a great site that is most commonly used for therapists to post their profiles and for clients to find a therapist nearby.  It’s very helpful that you can refine your search by specialty.  The unfortunate thing is that therapists can indicate that we specialize in as many topics as we'd like.  Although a therapist might indicate that they specialize in PTSD, if it's really something we know a lot about, we obtain specialized training in evidence-based methods specifically for PTSD and we will often note areas we are trained in on our websites, so don’t stop with Psychology Today, make sure you read through the clinician’s website as well.

Websites

Check out the websites of potential therapists.  If you are looking for help with flashbacks and the website you are visiting talks a bunch about flashbacks, that's a great sign!  If you are looking for help with a heightened startle response and you're on a website that doesn't mention this symptom, you might want to keep looking.  

Phone consultation

Some therapists offer a free 15-minue phone consultation which is a great service and an excellent opportunity for you to interview your potential trauma therapist.  You are going to be spending a good amount of time and finances on effective therapy, it is very important that you find the right fit for you.

Here are some questions to help you navigate your phone consultation:

1.     What methods do you use to treat PTSD?

2.   How do you help your clients manage overwhelming emotions while they work on traumatic memories?

3.   What do you do to treat the symptoms versus the root of the problem?

4.   How long does it usually take before your clients start to see relief from their symptoms?

5.   How effective are the methods you use?

6.   Given my specific set of symptoms and needs, do you think you can help me and have you helped many others’ with my specific symptoms before?

 

In an ideal world, you would find a therapist who has special training and expertise in the methods that show the best results and someone who has tons of experience working with eating disorders and trauma.  Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world.  So you'll need to search a bit further.  You'll be searching for someone that you connect with, who you feel comfortable talking to, someone who will be honest with you and you'll know you can be honest with them.  

ptsd, trauma, therapy, main line, counseling, emdr

I hope this helps you in your search for the right therapist on the Main Line of Philadelphia.  If you want some tools to help now, sign up for my newsletter to get some tips and tools for managing PTSD and eating disorders.  If you are still feeling stuck, feel free to call me at 610.314.8402 for a free 15 minute phone consultation.  I am available to listen to what's happening and help direct you to the right person.  If you are looking for help with eating disorders or PTSD, you can read more about how I can help here.

Sure Fire Ways to Get Grounded and Reduce Anxiety

No Stress Peace West Chester, PA Therapy

Your body feels jittery and like you want to crawl out of your skin.  Your heart races, your mind goes a million miles a second and you can't sleep.  Sometimes, you just wish you could find a little peace - a little reprieve from this constant state of feeling charged up.  Anxiety, social anxiety and panic are such difficult things to have to deal with.  The good news is that there's hope and some sure fire things you can do to help calm your nervous system.

What grounds you?

West Chester Therapy Peace No Stress Meditation

Getting grounded, as in, feeling your feet on the earth rather than in your head - starts with your intention at the beginning of each day.  The things that help people feel grounded can be different for everyone, so you need to find things that work for you.  The first place to start is to think about what you can do each morning, upon awakening that will help you get centered and begin your day with a peaceful intent.  Some mindfulness meditation could be helpful, reading from a daily book of inspirational readings, praying, doing some deep breathing, singing, chanting, walking or exercising in a mindful way - these are a few ideas you can begin with.  

As far as inspirational reading goes, I personally like these two:

West Chester Therapy Meditations Inspriations

A Deep Breath of Life by Alan Cohen

The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie

Whatever you choose to do to help you get grounded in the morning, make it into a ritual.  

Our bodies find comfort in repeating the same actions on a regular basis.  You will be teaching your body that every morning, you find peace through grounding and it will set you up to stay grounded and calm through the rest of your day.

Here is an example of a morning ritual:

West Chester Therapy for Anxiety Stress Reducing Mindfulness
Mindfulness Meditation Candle
  • wake
  • go to comfortable spot in home designated to meditation
  • light a candle or incense
  • drink warm lemon water
  • read from daily inspirational book
  • say a few simple prayers for help with staying calm through the day
  • set timer for 5 minutes 
  • practice deep belly breathing for 5 minutes while focusing on flame of candle
  • After breathing, spend 5 minutes making a gratitude list
  • blow out candle and go for a 15-minute walk

Something as simple as this can really get your day off to a great start.  

Maintaining Balance

As you go about your day, when you notice your anxiety rising, come back to the breath you started with at the beginning of your day.  

Feel your feet

Grounding in West Chester, PA Therapy Peace Techniques

This is a tip I learned a while back that always seems to help.  As yourself "where are my feet right now?" and then look down at them and see them there on the earth.  Wiggle your toes a bit and feel them moving around in your sock.  Acknowledge that right now, in this moment, your feet are right there and they are safe, therefore you are safe.  When you start to feel panic and your thoughts race, remember to ask "where are your feet?"

Reduce or eliminate caffeine

caffeine is addictive and it's very activating.  If you are trying to eliminate anxiety, you might want to consider eliminating caffeine.  Many people will say that they use caffeine to help them find energy throughout the day and keep them going.  Well, it's a catch 22 because when we use caffeine, our bodies use cortisol to help regulate our adrenal glands.  When we over tax this part of our systems, it leaves us depleted and more tired than we started.  Therefore, if we eliminate caffeine, we may be a tired for a few days while detoxing, but after your body adjusts, you will find that you have more energy and that you sleep better.

Speaking of sleep

A large part of mental health when dealing with anxiety is getting a good amount of sleep.  When we sleep, our bodies do a lot of healing.  Our organs do their cleansing, our hormones rebalance and we are able to function more effectively during waking time.  Also, dreaming is very important for our psyches to process material from our conscious and integrate it with our subconscious.  

Here are a few tips on sleep hygiene:

West Chester, PA Sleep Hygiene Therapy Counseling
  • target bedtime for the same time every night
  • eliminate all electronics from the bedroom
  • reserve your bed for sleeping and sexual activity only - don't do work in bed
  • if you are having trouble falling asleep, get up after 15 minutes and do something non-electronic for 15 minutes, then go back to bed and try to sleep again
  • create a wind-down routine for the last hour before bed

For more information on sleep hygiene contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com

Anxiety reducing techniques

Here are some proven techniques to help your body and mind relax:

Tense and release

Tighten every muscle in your body.  Start with your head. Tense up your face, your jaw, your eyes, your neck.  Tense up your shoulders, your chest muscles, your stomach, your biceps, make fists as tight as you can.  Tense up your butt muscles, your thighs, your calves, your ankles, your feet and your toes.  Keep all these parts of your body as tense as possible and keep them  tensed up for a full 60 seconds.  Then release.  This tense and release will help your body reduce anxiety symptoms.

Deep Breathing

Put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.  Take a deep breath in and try to push your belly hand all the way out with the breath into your diaphragm.  Inhale slowly to 4 counts, then hold for 4 counts, then release slowly for 4 counts and repeat.  When you practice breathing slowly, it will help to slow down your heart rate, thus reduce anxiety.

Bi-Lateral Movement

EMDR Butterfly Hug for Anxiety West Chester, Pa

Any kind of bi-lateral stimulation can help reduce anxiety.  Here are some examples: walking, biking, shifting weight back and forth from one foot to the other, tapping your thighs alternately.  Some others: drumming, swimming, scanning your eyes from one side of the horizon to the other, back and forth.  The butterfly hug is an EMDR technique where you hook your thumbs together so that your hands form a figure that looks like a butterfly.  Put your hands on your chest and tap alternatively around your collar bone area.  This is a great way to self-soothe or find relaxation in times of stress. Here's a video on how to do a different version of a butterfly hug. 

I hope you've found some of these tips useful.  As always, if you have any questions or for more information, please contact me at TiffanySpilove@yahoo.com