EMDR Therapy for Childhood Trauma

I work with adults who have had rough childhoods. I help them heal from childhood trauma. Did you know that according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) approximately 20% of all adults have been victims of one or more types of childhood abuse including physical, sexual, emotional and neglect? There are long lasting effects both physical and emotional to adults who suffered abuse as children.

  • Adults who suffered child abuse and neglect can develop allergies, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, high blood pressure, and ulcers, in addition to other physical disabilities because of poor health caused by the abuse.
  • Child abuse and neglect have been associated with panic and dissociative disorders, attention deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder, depression, anger, and post-traumatic stress disorder in children and in adults who suffered abuse.
  • Adults who were abused or neglected as children are more likely to abuse alcohol or drugs during their lifetimes.

You can take the  ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) questionnaire to determine your risk factor for health concerns related to your childhood trauma experiences by clicking here.

Using EMDR helps to process traumatic or distressing memories and experiences from the past so that your nervous system and brain can let them go and no longer be triggered by them in the present. Working on the experiences from the past that caused you harm and chronic stress will help you to live a healthier life as a adult. Even though we cannot go back and change what happened to you as a child we can heal form the past and build resiliency and health now as a adult.

Childhood Abuse and Neglect

Children can be traumatized by any experience that overwhelms them. If the experience is too much for the child and their internal resources then they can be traumatized. Children can be traumatized in many different ways, not just through abuse or neglect. They can be effected by divorce, inconsistent parenting, narcissistic parents, bullied at school and humiliated by peers, medical trauma and repeated disappointments. Theses experiences cause long lasting negative effects and can lead to low self esteem, depression and unhappiness as a adult.

EMDR therapy is extremely effective in treating adults who have experienced childhood trauma.  Even though the past can’t be erased, EMDR therapy can help you process the traumatic memories which affect you today so that the past does not affect you as it once did. EMDR therapy is useful in targeting the disturbing memories that have created negative thoughts about yourself, flashbacks, body sensations and negative feelings of sadness, loss, anger or shame. After the childhood trauma memories are reprocessed clients can remember it but they don’t feel the same old emotions or sensations. The memories won’t feel as distressing and the client will have a more adaptive and healthy view of themselves.

Early Trauma Protocol (ETP)

I have been trained to use a special EMDR protocol called the Early Trauma Protocol (ETP) by Katie Oshea M.S. and Sandra Paulsen Ph.D. to work with individuals who experienced childhood trauma and were abused and/or neglected in early childhood between the ages of birth to 3. When we experience abuse and or neglect before the age of three we do not have explicit memories. Because the brain is developing it is not able to remember exactly what happened to us. At that age memory is stored in the right hemisphere and is not subject to direct recall. Many people will have a “felt sense” of what they experienced at a young age. They might also know of stories that they were told by parents, siblings or other adults in their lives.

ETP Process

Trauma in young children is stored in a “baby state” in which there are no images or thoughts about the trauma, just a felt sense of terror, abandonment, hurt or shame that never seems to go away. Babies absorb everything around them including their mother, father, and environment. This includes the relationship template from those caring for them and becomes embedded into their body including their cells and muscle tissue.

With the Early Trauma Protocol I  start by resetting the affective or emotional circuits. When babies and young children don’t feel safe to express or show emotions then the emotions can be stopped or dysfunctionally stored. I use a form of EMDR therapy to help clients to feel and express their emotions in a healthy way.  Then I target the childhood trauma by developmental time frames using a felt sense of trauma or what the client has heard of their early childhood experiences. In this process we review the trauma material, then use EMDR therapy with a bilateral tapping method to release the trauma. Next, we use a reparative process which allows the client to imagine what they needed but didn’t get, and then help the client to install positive thoughts or beliefs about that time period