Thursday, April 30, 2009

Meandering Michele's Mind: Transforming Our Perception of PTSD Recovery

My approach to my own PTSD healing was all wrong. I thought I could force it to happen, cause it to occur overnight and then, poof!, 25 years of undiagnosed PTSD and all the memories and emotions tied to 1 life-threatening trauma would just evaporate. Just like that. Wasn't I optimistic?

OK, so now I’ve learned it doesn’t happen that way. Back then, though, I didn’t understand all of the work that needed to be done by me, that no one could do but me, and that no one could just bestow recovery upon me like a title.

As I started and stopped, succeeded and failed, I learned the hard way that PTSD recovery is all about our own evolution as people. We evolve constantly in our relationships, careers and other activities, how could healing be any different? As survivors we are trying to move from one identity to another, that takes time and devotion.

Eventually, I learned that we must be dedicated and passionate and accept that healing comes in increments and that we must fight for what we wish to achieve, regardless of the bumps along the way.

What I wish I had learned while I was healing was that a lot of how we progress has to do with our perspective. I never looked at my healing as an exciting event. I did not perceive it as an adventure but more as life on a chain gang and I didn't know when my sentence was scheduled to end. The PTSD mindset is prisonlike. We need to learn, as prisoners do, to imagine something else; what our lives will be when we are released.

A lot of trauma healing has to do with reframing events, perceptions and memories. I've come to understand that this applies to the healing process, too. We need to reframe our idea about what we're doing when we attempt recovery. For example:

Last week I was on vacation in North Carolina. Some friends and I stayed in a house on a lake up in the mountains, but each day we chose a different small town to go into for supplies and lunch. One of these excursions took us to Hendersonville, a tiny, one street (Main Street, of course!) town about 3 blocks long. After lunch at a cute American Bistro we took a stroll up one side and down the other side of Main Street.

On the corner of one block was a municipal building, in the basement of which is housed The Mineral and Lapidary Museum. Down the main stairs and into a small room, the museum is about 500 square feet. The walls are lined with artifacts and geological samples for sale. In the center of the room are glass displays of all kinds of stones, rocks and other mineral oriented stuff.

The major attraction of the museum, however, is its geode cache imported from Chihuahua, Mexico. Geodes are small round balls that, as the theory goes, are formed from volcanic bubbles. They are unremarkable to look at, like this one:

However, geodes are a little like the earth’s version of clams: Many contain beautiful crystals inside so you never know what to expect when you get one open.

‘Cracking a geode’ as the process is called, is done with a large machine that basically puts the geode in a chain link choke hold and then applies pressure until the outer shell, well, cracks. This is a main attraction in the museum. When my friend Laura decided to buy a geode the news whipped around the museum and brought everyone, shoppers and staff alike, to come stand by the machine. ‘She’s cracking a geode,’ was whispered and told to anyone who walked in, telephoned, or happened to be standing by.

In a group we all gathered around the machine as the Head Museum Volunteer positioned the geode in the chain and an assistant pulled the lever that applied the pressure. Silence enveloped the room as we waited for the geode to release its resistance and break open. And then it did, and now in Laura’s office on her desk she has a beautiful crystallized sensation that looks a lot like this:

As I watched this whole process I couldn’t help thinking how similar it is to PTSD recovery. We feel ugly, hard and trapped inside an isolating, impenetrable shell. And then we begin healing – we put ourselves into a position of incredible pressure until finally, that outer shell cracks and inside is revealed the beautiful crystals of our real selves that have been hidden for so long.

(Photo: a winner)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Last Day to Vote!

You all are being very quiet about your approach to your PTSD education!

How much do you know about the symptoms, causes, effects and treament of PTSD?

I'm curious to see how we as a community approach the idea of PTSD education. Particpate in the poll on the left and help me take the pulse of how we feel about the importance of knowing about this thing that ails us.

(Photo: Enrico Fuente)

PTSD Treatment: Exposure Therapy

One of PTSD’s most extreme symptoms is our tendency (devotion!) to avoid anything and everything that reminds us of our trauma. However, avoidance only feeds our traumatic feelings and encourages us to continue to embrace and act upon them. Exposure therapy aims at ending that cycle once and for all. According to an article on Medical News Today exposure therapy has proven to actually intercept the progression of trauma survivors from Acute Stress Disorder to PTSD. Now that’s something to think about.

Very popular with all kinds of trauma and particularly the military, PTSD Facts For Health defines exposure therapy this way:

Exposure therapy is based on the principle that we get used to things that are just annoying and not truly dangerous. This is called habituation, and it occurs naturally in over 95% of people.... Exposure therapy is based on the idea that this kind of habituation must occur in the person who has been traumatized if they are to overcome PTSD. Exposure therapy asks patients to confront, in a safe way, the very situations, objects, people and memories they have attached to the trauma (and are probably very consciously avoiding).

Exposure therapy is the opposite of the typical, self-prescribed avoidance approach. Because while avoidance may provide temporary relief, it just doesn't last. Facing these triggers is the key to reducing the frequency and severity of PTSD symptoms.

Exposure may be done in vivo (in real life) or in imagination. In vivo exposure is more effective than imaginal exposure. While anxiety or other discomfort may get worse in the first few minutes of in vivo exposure, it is important to continue exposure until the discomfort has diminished. Escaping discomfort only reinforces avoidance as a coping tactic, and produces all the limitations associated with avoidance—like avoiding safe places or situations that might be fun, beneficial or essential for a career and a full family life. It also increases the likelihood that the anxiety might spread, first to similar triggers and eventually to triggers that have little or nothing to do with the original anxiety. Examples of exposure in vivo are resuming driving after being in a traumatizing accident or returning to a now-safe site where an assault once occurred.

Exposure in imagination involves the person recounting traumatic memories until they lose their sting. This can be done by saying them aloud repeatedly, writing, reading and rewriting a biography of the events or recording them on a tape and playing them over and over until they are no longer distressing.

For further investigation, some interesting links:

A Soldier’s Mind: Exposure Therapy For Treating PTSD

If you’ve experience imaginal or in vivo exposure therapy leave a comment, share your thoughts so that we all can learn.

(Photo: EOS boy)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Survivors Speak: Using Art As a Bridge

Susan is my favorite kind of survivor - while juggling a family and her own healing she continues moving forward with tenacity despite the setbacks. She was not originally an artist, but now she uses photography, quilting and chalk pastels to help bridge the isolating PTSD gap between her and the rest of the world.

What, if any, relation did you have to photography, chalk pastels or quilting before using them as a therapeutic method?

Photography has always held a special interest for me. I love watching animals in their natural settings. I find the instinctive intensity in which animals live their lives inspiring. They live in the moment; they prepare for tomorrow and learn from past experiences. Photography helps me to capture that celebration of life and is a reminder that I too can share that life.

Working with chalk pastels started in the hospital. When it was first mentioned, I immediately said no. I knew I had zero talent in regards to drawing and had no desire to embarrass myself. Finally, after a lot of encouragement I decided to give it a try. And, yes, I was embarrassed by how awful the pictures were. But everyone was so encouraging that after a while I stopped feeling ashamed and really started to lighten up.

I started quilting during a very dark time in my life. My PTSD was in full swing. I had just started therapy and felt very confused about everything. I had been in denial for so long and was tired of trying to maintain what appeared to be a “normal” life. I saw a review about picture quilting and it sparked my interest. At that particular time, anything that could create even a little interest was worth pursuing. The quilts combine my love of nature and drawing.

What first inspired you to explore your trauma/PTSD experience in art form?

I never considered my self very artistic, but love working with my hands. For years I stayed with pretty straightforward forms of expression like refinishing furniture. During a rough time in therapy, I was put in the hospital. One of the treatments was art. At first I was intimidated by all the natural talent around me and felt ashamed that even my stick figures looked awful. Then I found chalk pastels. Here was a medium that I could work with! I finally stopped worrying what others would think and just started to enjoy the process.

In what way do you feel using artistic expression has furthered your healing?

I think the most important way that art has helped me is in the area of confidence. I have always been very shy and withdrawn. I tried to remain invisible even in a room full of people, which is difficult when you are tall for a female. Art broke down that barrier. I started to meet others who shared my interest and no longer felt so alone. PTSD made it very difficult for me to connect with people on a personal level. How could I let anyone into my dark world? Well, art changed at least a part of that. I finally had something personal to share and that connection has been lifesaving.

What's the single most important benefit you've discovered from expressing your trauma this way?

Artistic expression has given me a different type of voice. When I simply cannot find the words to express what I’m feeling, my hands take over. Whether it is a photograph, drawing or a quilt, I can show it to someone else and they know what I was trying to say. Art forms a bridge between the hurt child inside and the outside world, something that words cannot seem to do for me.

What have you learned about healing by filtering it through art?

Healing takes time. When I first start a quilt, there are hundreds of pieces. Each one has to be measured, cut and fitted into the whole scene. Once all the pieces are sewn together, they form a complete picture. All the individual parts are still there but are now united. I am literally sewing myself back together again, one piece at a time. Unfortunately, it is not a weekend project, but that’s all right, I have the time.

Do you have a single piece of work that you feel best embodies what you were trying to express? What elevates this piece above the others?

The picture that best embodies what I’m trying to express is actually one of the first pastel drawings I ever tried. The picture shown above is of a lake with a rocky outcropping. The sky is stormy, rocks are scattered around and the water is choppy. The whole picture is very dark and gloomy. I started this picture after a difficult therapy session in which I was trying to express how I view my self. When the picture was finished I was shocked at how closely it resembled my own internal landscape.

What tip would you give someone who is interested in exploring the idea of addressing his/her own traumatic experience through any of your methods?

My tip would be, don’t be afraid, this is about you. If at first you see a lot of dark and gloomy pictures, don’t worry, before you know it, brighter colors will start to appear. I would recommend to anyone who is shy or tends to isolate to sign up for a class on whatever modality you chose. It’s a great way to meet people and learn the little tricks of the trade. You will find some of the most kind and helpful people in the art world. Art seems to be a doorway that many trauma sufferers cross and there is always a helping hand on the other side. Welcome to the World of Art!

Monday, April 27, 2009

PTSD Treatment: Tapas Acupressure Technique in Action

If my interview with Tapas Fleming, creator of Tapas Acupressure Technique (TAT) left you curious to see how TAT works, you're in luck! There are many great sources to see TAT in action.

You can work with a practitioner, or you can practice TAT on your own. Below, a few videos to get you acquainted with the process.

#1 - How to Practice TAT Yourself.

#2 - Tapas Fleming (Founder TAT) live with a Vet who was healed by TAT

#3 - Listen to Iraq/Afghanistan Vet discuss his healing process with TAT.

PTSD Treatment: Tapas Acupressure Technique

We're coming into the homestretch of our month long education about PTSD symptoms, causes, effects and treatment.

Today, an interview with Tapas Fleming, creator of a very popular information processing technique that's shown great results with trauma survivors. Last week, a very cheerful, chatty, informed and giving Tapas provided in-depth answers to my questions. Enjoy!

Tapas, your Tapas Acupressure Technique® (TAT®) has helped thousands of people heal psychological issues. Before we get into the meat of things, describe what, exactly, TAT is.

Michele, TAT is a real easy way to end stress and create a happy life. It combines placing your hands on a few key points near your eyes and at the back of your head while you put your attention on a series of statements.

It's always interesting to me to learn the theory behind a technique. I feel the more we know, the more we get out of treatment and the more we can imagine new ways to apply the ideas even outside of a practitioner's office. Can you explain the theory behind TAT?

Yes – the central idea is that when we’re very stressed or traumatized we become identified with thoughts and beliefs that seem like they’re going to help us make it through. After the trauma has passed, we’re still living our lives stuck in those points of view and it doesn’t work – we can’t relax and be happy.

For example, a real typical point of view that gets born during a trauma that’s extreme enough to result in PTSD would be “I have to be on high alert all the time.” Another one would be “I’m not safe.” These stuck beliefs result in not being able to sleep, not being able to connect with people, always sitting with your back to a wall so you can keep an eye on everything, and so on.

Even though we can see we’re not in the original situation, somehow, we don’t “get it”. We keep operating on old information that doesn’t apply anymore. The points we touch at the front and back of our head with the TAT Pose allow us to “get it”. Acupuncture points have a lowered electrical resistance compared with the rest of our skin and thoughts have electrical fields that easily interact with our bodies at these points. It’s like the particular points of the TAT Pose are a computer port where we can download information. Once the new information is in our system, our body, emotions, chemistry, thoughts, and interpersonal relationships instantaneously update reflecting the new information. Life is often better for us right away.

As the pioneer who developed TAT, give us some background about what motivated or inspired you to develop this breakthrough technique.

In the beginning of the development of TAT, I was just trying to find an easier way to help my acupuncture patients get over allergies. Many of them were very ill with multiple allergies, couldn’t work and didn’t have much money. Even the drive to see me and the drive home were stressful. I wanted to find something that was effective and inexpensive so they wouldn’t have to see me so often and could get a lot of help at each visit.

After I discovered the TAT Pose, I worked with a patient who had been sexually abused as a child. We were doing TAT to help with her allergies. When we finished, she told me that she had no more “charge” on her whole childhood times of abuse. I realized then that TAT could be used to heal traumatic stress. That was really exciting! I’d spent earlier years in my life trying to get over stuff that had happened to me as a child and nothing ever really did it. I knew that lots of other people had all kinds of things that had happened to them that they’d love to get over so they could move on with their lives. I felt that no one wanted to keep imprisoned in old, dark emotional junk – they wanted to be happy and feel loved and be able to love and express their own unique gifts. That’s what inspired me.

TAT was one modality I used during my PTSD healing. I always enjoyed the immediate feeling of in-the-moment centered peace it gave me. Outline for us how TAT works, i.e. what it does/affects in our bodies that effects a change in our minds.

As I mentioned above, thoughts affect our whole system – not just inside our bodies but even how life turns out. We all know this, but haven’t known a real simple way to get our thoughts to really interact with our bodies on a cellular and emotional level. We’ve had plenty of advice to think positive and lots of us have tried it…but it hasn’t really totally “clicked”. The reason TAT really “clicks” is because our thoughts get in there and change everything and…the real beauty of it is that our true nature is peace. As you said, it’s an immediate feeling of in-the-moment centered peace. I’m happy that you know that from your own experience. What’s going on is that we’re no longer identified with something like “Life isn’t safe” as being at the core of our being – we’re just simply being ourselves again and there’s nothing better than that!

Describe for us the general process/steps of TAT.

You place your thumb and fourth finger just above the upper inner corner of each eye and your middle finger just between and a bit above the level of your eyebrows. Then you spend around a minute with your attention on each of several statements. You don’t try to force or resist what’s happening – you just notice what’s going on as you do it. The statements (called the Steps of TAT) include accepting what happened, that it’s over now, forgiveness and apologies, and choosing the positive, happy life we want for ourselves now. All that new information is received and you’re done. You don’t have to say a word and you certainly don’t re-live any trauma doing TAT.

We have the whole process available for free at our website, It’s available in a dozen languages or so, too.

How effective have you found TAT to be for people struggling with PTSD?

In my experience so far, totally effective. What I mean by effective is: there’s no stress or emotional upset in doing TAT or after, one trauma can be a done deal in around 20 minutes, and life is instantly better. If there are loads of traumas over years, after 10 times or less doing TAT, all that stress is gone. People can sleep -- and without nightmares --, they can be around people, they’re not on hyper-alert, they can connect with their families and they don’t have a plan to kill themselves anymore. The part of them that was left on the battlefield or as a frightened child or whatever the scene was that resulted in PTSD, returns to them in the here and now and they’re whole and integrated.

For someone who's anxious about trying a new and unknown therapy, what tips would you give someone to get them prepared for their first session?

Feel at ease knowing that it’s normal to be anxious, critical or even cynical about something like this. Some people think “If this is so great, how come everyone doesn’t already know about it?” Other people think “It isn’t possible something this easy could help me.” It’s OK to give it a try even though those thoughts and feelings are there. You don’t have to “believe in it” for it to work.

The first thing people do who’ve never done TAT before is to do the TAT Pose with their attention on thoughts like:

“TAT will never work for me. It’s too simple to be of any value.” And then, people do the TAT Pose with their attention on thoughts like, “TAT is easy and it’s possible it could work for me.” We’re not saying it’s going to work, just that it’s possible. It’s all there in the free how-to download.

Doing that clears the way to give it a try and see for yourself.

If someone wants to try TAT, what's the best resource for finding an accredited practitioner?

Our website,, has a listing of Certified TAT Professionals who are trained to help people reduce traumatic stress or any stress and create a happy, healthy life. Many of these folks work over the phone, so anyone can find someone they like and give it try.

Thank you so much for your time, Tapas. Any last words to offer people in support of their PTSD healing journey?

Thank you for the chance to get the word out about TAT, Michele. To you who are still suffering with PTSD, my heart really goes out to you. I imagine that if I were you reading a little interview like this, I might think, “Oh yeah, sure. You want me to believe that something this easy can help a problem I’ve been seriously suffering with for years? You just don’t get it, lady. I’ve been trying all kinds of stuff for this and I’ve only had a tiny bit of relief now and again. Why should I try this?”

My reply is that I’m still amazed that this works the way it does and I’ve been using it around 15 years. Even now, when I’m in the middle of some negative belief that has me in its grip, I still am wondering if TAT is really going to work on this one. Then, around 15 minutes later, my eyes are big with amazement and I’m saying “Good old TAT. Wow! I feel so much better.”

I invite you watch videos by a recent combat veteran and read what few combat soldiers who had PTSD have written about it here. You might also like hearing the audio interview with a retired colonel who used TAT for his PTSD, a therapist who has worked with veterans for 25 years, a man who had PTSD since Vietnam, and a TAT Trainer who participated in a two-week course for combat veterans are interviewed about TAT.

We’re just about to get card decks printed that show you how to do TAT for getting over stress from any trauma and put into action the process of creating your happy life. (They also work for playing any card game.) TAT is that easy. If you want to be informed about when the card decks are available, get on our list at and we’ll let you know as soon as we have them in hand.

You have my best wishes for your happiness and health. You’re my inspiration for creating TAT and getting it out there.

I have a request: if you try it and it helps you, please get the word out about it.

Michele, thank you for helping get the word out about TAT. Thank you for all that you do to help us all be happy.

Do you have experience with TAT? If you've tried it or heard about someone's success leave a comment!

(Photo: Tapas Fleming)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Professional Perspective: Adding A Resource Person

Julie Levin (MFT, CHT) specializes in relief from anxiety and related behaviors in both individuals and couples. Recently, I asked her what she thought made survivors resilient. Her answer:

"One of the things I'm becoming aware of as I use EMDR more is the importance of a 'resource' person ... or a person who believes in the survivor and ideally loves or cares about him/her. I think this is a big factor in resiliency."

I found this idea interesting and asked Julie to elaborate. While her answer below applies to EMDR, the theory of a resource person can be applied and employed in any kind of therapy.

Sometimes clients get stuck when doing EMDR. They get into a loop or go blank, and the technique of recalibrating - going back to the old belief and getting a measurement, then re-starting the EMDR process - doesn't seem to be working. When I studied EMDR with Philip Manfield, he introduced us to the concept of a "Resource Person", the mental image of someone who knows and cares about the client, who can imaginatively step into the process and offer guidance or support.

The client is asked to think of someone who is safe, respectful, nurturing and loving. Often a grandparent or teacher will come to mind. Clients are discouraged from using immediate family members because often there is some ambivalence. When clients can't think of a real person, I broaden the question to include anyone, a celebrity, an historical figure, or a spiritual figure who would know their new belief was 100% true if they ever met. Most clients can come up with someone. Some clients will come up with several people and I incorporate them as one resource, like a cheering squad.

Philip recommends "installing" the resource with two or three short (10-12 reps), faster rounds of EMDR while the client holds an image of the resource person in their mind. I've found that I can even ask a stuck client to think of someone and just invite the resource into their processing right in the middle of things. So a client is stuck and says, "I can't get past this belief" or "I keep going blank" and I say, "Who do you know that knows your true self and still loves you?" They come up with someone, and I say, "Good, bring that person with you into the stuck place." This is usually enough to get the therapeutic process going again.

Clients know exactly what they need. The image of the resource person allows them to access and accept guidance, encouragement, support - or whatever is needed at that point. People usually have a strong mental image of this person who knows something about their value, strength, resilience, or even a more accurate perspective on the trauma than they have. And this resource helps them get past blocks or resistance.

I've become more creative with the resource person, incorporating it at the end of an EMDR session, when the client is locking in the new belief. "Hear your resource person telling you ______" (insert new belief here). I have clients tell me that their resource person becomes an active part of their inner dialogue long after an EMDR session. Juicy stuff.

I love the idea of a resource person. It's sort of a way to allow our own inner voice to have a say even when we don't trust it. By giving the voice to someone we do trust our own instincts can develop strength.

So, what do you think? Do you have a resource person? Would you try this tactic? Do you feel it would be useful? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

'Professional Perspective' is a weekly feature highlighting a therapist or other healing oriented practitioner's view of some positive aspect in the healing process. If you'd like to contribute, please email me with ideas, topics, and suggestions: parasitesof.themind @

(Photo: Julie Levin)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

PTSD Healing: Attitude Adjustment

It's been a busy week! As we come close to the end of our focus on education about PTSD healing we covered Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Emotional Freedom Technique and Thought Field Therapy, plus the idea of surrounding ourselves with the right people while we heal. This is good, meaty stuff to keep our journeys moving forward.

Now, it's time for a rest. 'PTSD in the News' is temporarily suspended today due to the fact that it's my last day of vacation and I'm spending the day on the lake on a pontoon boat with a bunch of survivor friends in various stages of healing.

Sometimes, we just have to take a break from our journeys and go find something to enjoy for a change; to get outside of ourselves and our circumstances and remember what it's like to just live!

One of the women here with us has MS and I've been really inspired this week by the way she persists in going and doing and not missing a moment or experience despite her daily struggles.

In the spirit of transcendence and getting out of our heads, the 'Getting Needs' exercise below was sent to me by a blog reader. I like the way it encourages our imagination and guides us into the realm of possibility -- such an important thought process to develop, practice and believe in. Enjoy the visualization and the sense of peace. If you hear a splash, that'll be me diving in to the cool lake waters.

Picture yourself walking through a meadow. There is a path opening before you.

As you walk, you feel hungry. Look to your left. There’s a fruit tree in full bloom. Pick
what you need.

Steps later, you notice you’re thirsty. On your right, there’s a fresh water spring.

When you are tired, a resting place emerges.

When you are lonely, a friend appears to walk with you.

When you get lost, a teacher with a map appears.

Before long, you notice the flow: need and supply; desire and fulfillment. A series of thoughts dawn on you:

Maybe Someone gave me the need because Someone planned to fulfill it.

Maybe I had to feel the need, so I would notice and accept the gift.

Maybe closing my eyes to the desire closes my arms to its fulfillment.

Demand and supply, desire and fulfillment – a continuous cycle, unless we break it.

All the necessary supplies have already been planned and provided for my journey.

Today, everything I need shall be supplied to me.

Tomorrow everything you want will be waiting for you to decide to claim it.

(Photo: Old Shoe Woman)

Friday, April 24, 2009

PTSD Treatment: Thought Field Therapy Testimonial

The following video was supplied by Joanne Callahan to supplement her terrific guest post (see below) on Thought Field Therapy (TFT). Paul Harris is an automobile crash and burn victim who successfully used TFT to heal his trauma wounds.

PTSD Treatment: Tapping Away Your Fears and Traumas With Thought Field Therapy

During my PTSD healing, I tried every information processing technique there is. Thought Field Therapy (TFT) is another tapping exercise that can provide substantial results.

Today, Joanne Callahan, wife and partner of TFT's founder, Dr. Roger Callahan, wrote a guest post for us explaining the history of TFT and its benefits. Happy tapping!

How Thought Field Therapy Came to Be

This year we celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the discovery of a revolutionary form of healing, originally called Callahan Techniques and now commonly known as Thought Field Therapy (TFT). TFT was discovered and developed by California clinical psychologist, Dr. Roger Callahan.

The first person Dr. Roger Callahan treated with this method was Mary, a woman in her 40s who had a severe phobia of water. According to Mary and her relatives, she had had this phobia ever since she was an infant. Water was so terrifying to Mary that she could not take baths in a full tub of water and was terrified every time it rained. She often had nightmares of water getting her. And, although she lived in California, she could not go to the beach, because the very sight of water caused her unbearable anxiety.

Dr. Callahan had been working with Mary using a wide variety of conventional psychotherapy techniques for a year and a half with very little progress. Even though he had tried every technique available at the time, all he had been able to do for her was get her to the point where she could sit on the edge of his swimming pool and reluctantly dangle her legs in the water. Even this filled her with anxiety. When she sat by the pool, she couldn’t bear to look at the water. She left each session with a splitting headache due to the extreme stress of the treatment and being exposed to water for the whole session.

During one of these tortuous sessions with poor Mary, he decided to try an experiment. She had repeatedly mentioned that every time she thought of water she got an awful feeling in the pit of her stomach. Throughout his career, Dr. Callahan was never satisfied with the usual psychological treatments and was continually looking for better procedures. He had been studying energy meridian points on the body (the same ones used in acupuncture), and had learned the location of the end point to the stomach meridian, which was directly under the eyes.

Not expecting much of anything to happen, he asked Mary to tap under her eyes. After doing so, much to his astonishment, she exclaimed, “It’s gone! That horrible feeling I get in the pit of my stomach when I think about water is completely gone!” At first he didn’t believe her. She then leapt up out of her chair and ran towards his swimming pool. Concerned that she couldn’t swim and might jump in the pool, he ran after her. Mary responded, “Don’t worry, Dr. Callahan, I know I can’t swim”, which was an indication that although the treatment completely removed her fear, it did not make her stupid. Mary went to the pool, free of all traces of her fear of water.

Mary has remained free of all traces of her life-long phobia of water since her very brief treatment nearly thirty years ago. The nightmares also vanished, never to return. After the astonishing results with Mary, Dr. Callahan went on to try this technique on other patients. As he made additional discoveries, he began to have success with other phobics. He also found that not only could he quickly eliminate irrational fears (phobias), modifications and further development of these techniques allowed him to be able to help people who had upsets and trauma that had a basis in reality. The phobic person knows that their fears are irrational, yet cannot help feeling afraid. By contrast, someone who has suffered from a catastrophic event, such as being raped or robbed, has good reason to be upset. He found that TFT can also heal the effects of trauma, loss and grief.

How TFT Has Evolved
Throughout the 1980s, Dr. Callahan made refinements that increased the success rate. At the time, he called the procedures the Callahan Techniques. By the 1990s, he had developed very rapid, highly effective techniques for a large variety of problems. He participated in a research project at Florida State University in a search for the cure for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and due to that study renamed the procedures Thought Field Therapy (TFT). The study resulted in an article stating:

"If it had been a horse race, which the investigators as well as the innovators were all at pains to deny, the TFT contingent would have won, hands down. Requiring virtually nothing in the way of personal interaction, TFT can bypass all that tedious therapeutic business of joining, empathy, history taking, reprocessing and the like, and zero in on the problem immediately at hand. With 10-minute treatments not at all unusual?"...Mary Sykes Wylie, Ph.D., Senior Editor, "The Family Therapy Networker, July/Aug, 1996."

Where TFT Is Today
TFT is now in its thirtieth year of development and has simple, non-invasive, drug-free, procedures that are equally effective across gender, age, cultures and species. It has evolved from helping simple psychological problems thru two decades of helping to heal physical problems and a decade of raising consciousness and opening channels to spirituality. TFT truly addresses nature’s healing system, working with our mind, body and spirit to launch natural healing processes.

It has been successfully used to help solve many of the problems we are all faced with on a daily basis:

Stress, fears and phobias
General anxiety and panic disorders
Anger and guilt
Trauma and PTSD
Love pain and grief
Physical pain
Negativity, self sabotage
Compulsion behaviors
Addictive urges
Weight loss
Eating disorders

Most importantly, TFT has been used to heal the traumas of war in Kosovo, the traumas of natural disasters such as hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and the horrors of genocide in Rwanda. We believe that if we can provide fast, effective relief for trauma, we have made a step toward breaking the cycle of violence triggered by past trauma.

Dr. Callahan and Joanne Callahan, as President of the ATFT Foundation, are currently leading a program to help our returning soldiers with a Freedom R & R’s program with Timeshares for Vets. For more information about this program or to learn about the previous trauma relief programs visit the foundations web site at .

Dr. Callahan offers free copies of his newsletter and Free Trauma help on his web site, . You can also visit his blog at

To see a video testimonial click here.

(Photo: Joanne & Roger Callahan)

Building PTSD Resources

In response to my comment earlier this week that I'm outgrowing my blog space, a cheeky Englishman sent me an email agreeing with me - and making some great suggestions about how to rectify this problem. Thanks to his really good advice, I've now moved (and totally organized!) 'My Favorite Trauma Links' to its own page. There's a link on the homepage now, too, for easy future reference.

My goal is to take this resource list and build it into a very substantial size. If you have links to organziations, healing and coping strategies and support groups, sites, and blogs, please leave a comment or email them to me at parasitesof.themind @

Also: I'm in the process of launching a PTSD advocacy organization: Heal My PTSD, LLC, & will go live this summer with a hot site that will house healing information for every segment of the PTSD population.

The new site will be a resource for the PTSD community, to heal the community, and I'd love to have it be built by the community. I welcome input from you. Important links for every type of PTSD, plus healing and empowering sites that you feel provide good resources will all be welcome, so send me the sites you love!

(Photo: heathre)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

PTSD Treatment & Healing Resources

The following list of organizations & informational sites is designed to give an overview of basic PTSD symptoms, causes, effects, treatments, healing options, and online support groups. Whether you're an adult or child, a civilian or vet, a post-partum mother or a friend/family member of someone strugging with PTSD, you'll find something on this page to advance healing. (For PTSD-related blogs, please see the blogroll at the bottom of the homepage.)

The list below is ever-growing and expanding. If you have favorite sites you'd like to see added here, please send them to me at parasitesof.themind @

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV - Definition of PTSD

PTSD Self-Test: Take This Quiz to Evaluate Your Symptoms

Trauma & Mental Health Organizations
Anxiety Disorders Association of America
International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies
National Alliance on Mental Illness
National Alliance of Cognitive Behavioral Therapists
Sidran Institute
The Trauma Center

PTSD Information Resources
Award Winning David Baldwin's Trauma Pages
Carrot of Hope
Gateway to PTSD Information
Loopholing: Simple PTSD information PTSD Symptoms, Treatment and Self-Help
PTSD Information Center
PTSD Resources
PTSD Treatment Information
Effects of Traumatic Experiences
Facts: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Coping Links
Organized Wisdom
Coping Techniques for PTSD
Coping with PTSD
PTSD & Chronic Pain Management
Stress Management Tips: Destress Yourself with Elizabeth Stanfill
Stress Relief Information
Anderson Anger Management

Healing Links
Healing Guided Visualization
The Soul Salon
Survivor Radio Cafe
Laura King: The Hypnotherapist Who Helped Cure My PTSD

Combat PTSD

Combat PTSD Facts & History
COmbat PTSD: An Overview
Combat PTSD: Winning the War Within (list of symptoms)
Healing Combat Trauma
Bob Woodruff's Combat TBI & PTSD org
eMail our Military
PTSD Anonymous for Vets
Dr. Ray Scurfield: Resource for Combat & Disaster PTSD
Vet Voice
When Our Troops Come Home

Resources for Family & Friends
Family Trauma Survivors
Family of a Vet
Facebook Support Group for Friends and Family

PTSD & Children
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
PTSD in Children & Adolescents
Children of Veterans and Adults with PTSD
Child Trauma Academy
PTSD in Children: National Center Fact Sheet
Children & Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Resources for Children
Trauma and PTSD in Children

PTSD Support Organizations
For Women With PTSD: Gift from Within
Top 10 PTSD Support Groups & Forums

Online Groups
Daily Strength
PTSD Online Forum

Post-Partum PTSD

PTSD After Childbirth

Books of Interest
(This list has been compiled by survivors who used the following books to support and further their own healing.)

Trauma & PTSD theory:

The Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Sourcebook: A Guide to Healing, Recovery and Growth - Glenn Schiraldi
Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror - Judith Herman
The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment - Babette Rothschild
Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences, Peter A. Levine
A Mind Frozen in Time: A PTSD Recovery Guide, Jeremy P. Crosby
Rebuilding Shattered Lives: The Responsible Treatment of PTSD and Dissociative Disorders, Dr. James Chu
No Open Wounds, Heal Traumatic Stress, Dr. Robert Bray
The Inner World of Trauma: Archetypal Defenses of the Personal Spirit, by D. Kalshed
Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal, by Bellaruth Naparstek and Robert Scaer

Healing PTSD workbooks:

The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms - Mary Beth Willams and Soili Poijula
I Can't Get over it: A handbook for Trauma Survivors - Aphrodite Matsakis
The Way of the Journal: A Journal Therapy Workbook for Healing - Kathleen Adams

Personal Accounts of Trauma Recovery:

My Stroke of Insight - Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness - Pete Earley

For survivors of childhood sexual abuse:

The Courage to Heal - Ellen Bass and Laura Davis
The Courage to Heal Workbook - Laura Davis
Allies in Healing - Laura Davis
I never Told Anyone: Writings by Women Survivors of Childhood Abuse - Ellen Bass
The Sexual Healing Journey: A Guide for Survivors of Sexual Abuse - Wendy Maltz
Outgrowing the Pain: A Book for and About Adults Abused as Children - Eliana Gil

For survivors of childhood abuse:

The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self - Alice Miller (author shares personal experience)
Betrayal Trauma: The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse - Jennifer Freyd (author shares personal experience)
Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantage of a Painful Childhood - Wayne Miller
Surviving and Transcending a Traumatic Childhood: The Dark Thread - Linda Skogrand, Nikki DeFrain, John DeFrain, Jean E. Jones


Many Lives, Many Masters, Dr. Brian Weiss
The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By, Carol Pearson
The Alchemist (A Novel), by Paolo Coelho

(Photo: Metropol 21)

Meandering Michele's Mind: What Kind of People Surround You?

The following quote comes from Mike H's ever evolving and really interesting Zen/PTSD blog:

You simply cannot become healthier and happier as a human being unless you hang with people who are healthy and want to encourage health. That's the crux.

This morning I'm wondering: Who are you hanging with?

During my healing PTSD years, I made and got rid of many friends. Some friends I made because it seemed like a good idea at the time. They seemed interested and understanding and totally supportive of my PTSD. They asked questions, wanted info and generally kept up with me on a daily basis, always trying to better appreciate my predicament, prodding me to go deeper in my explanations than even I had planned to go. It was nice. I got to explain and expound on what I was going thrugh.

And then I got hip to the fact that these friends behaved this way because they liked seeing someone more miserable than they were! When I began to heal, all they wanted to do was poke at me to see where was the misery? It had to still be there, they were sure. They weren't interested in my growing strength or happiness because then they were left with the fact they still had to handle and manage their own displeasures, disappointments and sadness. When they couldn't vicariously and voyeuristically experience mine (and then go home at the end of the day thinking themselves so much healthier and happier than I was) these friends got annoyed at my unwillingness to be the one cataloguing desperate emotions.

There've been people, too, oddly enough, on the other side of the spectrum. People who so genuinely loved to feel my pain and share my burden that I felt worse because of it. I have made friends because their love and compassion and emotional connection to my struggle felt so good. But then, as I healed, their interaction with me didn't evolve. They still handled and approached me through this murky emotionality; they wanted to always soothe and empathize, even when that was no longer necessary. I found myself playing a role - playing the PTSD victim because that is what our friendship needed to survive. If I healed, our friendship had no other substance. I got tied to a couple of these people and it was hard -- really hard! -- to realize they were becoming toxic to me.

In healing, we're so desperate, desolate, isolated and fragmented we don't always make the right decisions. Heck, sometimes we don't even make decisions; we do things by default. This can be hazardous to our recovery. We must become conscious at all times in order to really heal. We can begin this sort of cosciousness raising (to revamp a phrase from the 70s) by being aware of the simple act of choosing whom we allow around us.

Take a look at the people with whom you surround yourself. Ask yourself whether or not they support or hinder your being yourself; how they encourage or discourage your feeling good about yourself, recovery, and the future. Ask yourself if the people around you are good or bad for you. If the answers are negative... well, you need to begin thinking about how to change the energy surrounding you. Time for some friend/family spring cleaning! If we want to heal we cannot have our energy siphoned off or mutilated by the negative effects of others.

Mike includes in his approach to new friendships the question, 'Would this be healthy?'

Are you this conscious in choosing who you spend time with?

How do you approach new friendships? How do you choose who you allow into your inner circle? Have you seen friendships begin or end in relation to your PTSD evolution? This is an important topic to consider! Let's pool our resources.

(Photo: vnduan)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

PTSD Treatment: Emotional Freedom Technique in Action

After reading John Garrett's illuminating EFT interview I posted earlier, don't you just want to see how this process works? Yep, I thought so!

Below, you'll find some great links to see the who/what/when/where/why/how of EFT in action.

For an intro to what EFT is, watch this.

For a powerful explanation and how-to by Judy Byrne, master practitioner (including specifically about how EFT works with PTSD), click here. Tip: Substitute your own trauma sentence: i.e. ‘Even though I still feel anxious because of my trauma…” Or, “Even though I cannot let go of the past….” for Judy's example.

Here's an interview of how a woman cured PTSD, CFS and chronic pain with EFT.

Here's an EFT script/program for betrayal and unfairness.

For the vet community:

For vets and their families: Intro EFT for Vets

One of my favorite EFT for vets resources:

Combat PTSD in action with a vet who’s been in talk therapy for 30 years and still describes his PTSD as ‘severe’. PHENOMENAL video.

Careful: The story this vet tells about his encounter with a child with a live grenade may be triggering.

Erasing Combat PTSD – EFT in action with a corpsman

EFT introduced for healing Combat PTSD
(Photo: Tapping)

PTSD Treatment: Emotional Freedom Technique

John R. Garrett is a Vietnam Vet (1970-71), Retired Deputy Sheriff (2002), Realtor, and Andalusian Horse Breeder. He lives in Parker, Colorado, and… he’s a pro at the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Because of this, I asked him to do an interview that would lay out the basics of EFT for us. We’re in luck because the MindGuy (as he’s called on Twitter) responded to my questions with an extensive explanation and background on EFT so that we can really see what this PTSD treatment option is all about.

What is Emotional Freedom Technique?

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is an energy psychology process where the individual taps energy meridian points to release negative emotions surrounding an incident or issue.

How was EFT developed?

EFT was developed by Gary Craig, an engineer by education. EFT is based on the Thought Field Therapy techniques developed by Dr Roger Callahan in California in the late 1980s. You can visit the Emofree site for additional information.

Why does EFT work?

When an individual experiences a physical or mental trauma, the body reacts to the circumstances with various physical changes. One of those is a disruption in the flow of energy. Once the threat abates, the body then reverts back to its normal condition, most of the time. There are times, however, when some part of the energy system gets “stuck”. Then, when the person is exposed to a similar set of circumstances, the person’s reaction is affected by the “stuck” portion of the system.

In EFT, we stimulate the energy points while thinking of the upset and overcome the “blocks”, clearing the pathways. This results in the elimination of the negative emotions attached to the memory. It doesn’t change the memory, just the emotional reaction to it.

Is EFT effective?

EFT is effective in that the relief experienced by the client is, at times, immediate and in follow-up contacts, the changes were holding. There are quite a number of studies that show that effect. Another study showed that the levels of cortisol (a stress relieving hormone that is secreted into the body when it is stressed), which saw little or no change after other traditional techniques, or no treatment at all, was reduced by an average of 25% after one hour of EFT. There is a 19 minute video that people can view at, which shows the speed and effectiveness of the process.

What is the process of EFT?

The Basic Recipe of EFT is:

Determine what issue you are going to work on.

Establish your Subjective Unit of Discomfort Scale (SUDS) level.

Set-up: While tapping the Karate Chop Point, state your situation three times:

“Even though I have this (Your Issue), I deeply and completely love and accept myself.

Create your reminder phrase, (2-5 words to stay focused).

Sequence: While stating your reminder phrase, tap 5 – 9 times at each of the following points:

1. H - Top of Head, 3”-4 “ from forehead.
2. EB - Eyebrow: Point of the eyebrow over the nose.
3. SE – Side of Eye: Bone of the outside corner of the eye.
4. UE – Under the Eye: Bone under the eye.
5. UN – Under the Nose: Area between bottom of the nose and top of upper lip.
6. CH – Chin: Midway between lower lip and point of the chin.
7. CB – Collarbone: Point where the collarbone and first rib meet.
8. UA – Under the Arm: Side of body, approximately 4” below armpit.
9. KC – Karate Chop: Side of hand, middle of fleshy part between wrist and little finger knuckle.

After each round, re-establish your SUDS level. Continue to tap until the level is 0 or as low at you are comfortable with.

What are the benefits of EFT?

The benefits of EFT are that it is effective, easy to use, easy to learn, and if used in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic incident, can prevent further emotional distress. Another benefit is that the speed of the process compared to conventional therapies is amazing. One study mentioned that the mean number of visits for EFT was 3 versus 15 visits for conventional therapies.

As I mentioned earlier, most clients experience positive results almost immediately. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are done, just that there were improvements. Each individual’s issue is made up of various aspects. We may need to tap for each aspect to completely eliminate the issue. An additional benefit may be that other incidents in the clients history may contain similar aspects and those will be cleared as well.

Gary Craig, in 1995, worked with several Vietnam Vets who were being treated by the VA in California. All were on various medications and other traditional treatments. One vet said he had a number of memories of incidents that caused him emotional distress. After working on several of those memories, all negative emotions attached to the others were gone. He could talk about the incidents without any distress. So, the benefits of working on one memory can extend over into another memory.

What type of emotional issue(s) is EFT best at relieving?

EFT can be used for anything at any time. In fact, it is very effective in the immediate aftermath of an incident to ease the immediate emotional distress and prevent further distress. Since EFT is self-administered (the client does the tapping, the therapist just guides the process), once the client learns the procedure he can use it anywhere, both in and out of the practitioner’s office. Some people, who have used EFT for some time, have even been equally successful in just thinking about the tapping point, which activates it, while reciting the reminder phrase.

John Garrett began as a hypnotherapist after using hypnosis to stop a 30 year smoking habit. He learned about and received training in EFT in the mid 1990s. He attained the EFT-CC designation in 1995 and EFT-ADV in 2008. For over 14 years, he has used EFT, hypnosis and other techniques to help people overcome negative habits, eliminate negative emotional attachments and beliefs about Columbine, Combat, Shooting Incidents, Equestrian Issues, and other blocks to personal and professional performance. John's web site can be found at He can be reached at 303-884-3566.

To see EFT in action click here.

(Photo: John Garrett)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Survivors Speak: EMDR the Movie

Rock stations often have 'Two for Tuesday'. Today, I'm rockin' out.

Mike Burns has not only learned about and experienced EMDR for his own issues, he's become so intrigued by the modality he's making a movie about it. Anyone want to be an extra? Mike's always looking for survivors to participate in the film. You can contact him through the link below.

My story is one that like many others, is still unfolding. In 2006, I was exploring talk therapy and using EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) to look at some incidents from my life. I have memories that made deep impressions on me and that cause me great anxiety to recall.

Like many people new to mental healthcare, I didn’t think therapy offered much hope beyond the psychosomatic: talking to others or trying more involved therapy might do some good, but anything could make you feel better, if you just believed enough. This is what I thought. Then, during the course of talk therapy my therapist and I agreed to try EMDR. I tried the protocol, using targets we discovered and the questions that follow, and something strange happened. Not only did the incident that I focused on lose its power and ability to provoke discomfort and anxiety, but the symptoms of a chronic disease I have also dramatically subsided, something that I noticed when I was still dismissive of EMDR’s efficacy. But as time went by, the theory that it was all a coincidence- that my symptoms happened to roll back at the same moment as my most effective EMDR session- seemed less and less likely.

The more I’ve looked into it since, the more I’ve noticed that my story is not unique. I’m now convinced that the mind plays a central role in virtually all aspects of our overall health.

I now believe that we have much more power than we think we do, to affect our physical conditions by working through the anxieties and traumas of our past. Not only this, but I believe disease is a combination of environmental factors mixed with mental and emotional triggers, and expresses itself in a far more predictable way than we currently think. The research is developing quickly on these issues, and I think in the next few decades we will start to see this correlation much more clearly. I think David Servan Schreiber’s new book, Anticancer, is one of the important statements on what exactly a holistic approach means from a scientific prospective and I think it’s an invaluable resource for those interested in these topics.

My interest in these issues, combined with my audio visual background, has led me to explore them in the form of a documentary film project on EMDR. Rather than create an infomercial about the treatment, I’m interested in honestly exploring EMDR’s limits and possibilities, and along the way possibly discovering what happened to me the day I had the breakthrough. One important thing I’m discovering is that EMDR is like most therapies in that it will work if you put in the effort. Unlike our fast-food, instant gratification culture, therapy cannot be handed to us like a pill. And it’s often not painless either. It’s a difficult journey, but if we have the stamina to take one step more than we took yesterday, we’ll find our way on the path, whether it’s EMDR or another therapy that provides the signposts.

If you’re interested in EMDR and want to be a part of my film project, please see our site at

Survivors Speak: Using EMDR to Heal

So here I am, deep in the North Carolina woods in an enormous house built into the side of a mountain. My bedroom overlooks a lake, smooth as glass, twisting through the pines toward the mountains that rise in the distance. I may not leave, as scheduled, on Sunday!

To continue our EMDR exploration: today, the words of a survivor living with PTSD, learning about EMDR, and experiencing the positive effects of treatment....

I began healing from the haunting effects of living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I met my therapist, a wonderful, intelligent, and deeply caring man who is trained in treating trauma and in EMDR. The connection I made with my therapist, learning to trust him, seeing that he would journey with me into my darkest, most horrifying memories and stay with me as I worked through them, has been one of the most important in my life. Connections such as these heal on a deep level.

But what I have come to understand and have experienced firsthand is that all the talking in the world, all the understanding about what happened to me and how it affected me, would only go so far in healing the trauma that I have suffered.

What pioneers in the field of trauma have learned is that PTSD is directly connected to unprocessed memory.

The knowledge they are acquiring about what happens to memory when we are traumatized is revolutionizing the mental health field.

I am not a doctor or a therapist. What follows is my understanding of how EMDR helps process trauma, and my experience working with EMDR. I offer it to you as a springboard for your own investigation into using EMDR with a trained professional to help you heal from trauma.

People have what Dr. Francine Shapiro, the therapist who developed EMDR, calls an “Information Processing System.” We take in explicit information, the stories of what happens to us (“I went to the store”) and knowledge of time and place (“It was a Wednesday at noon in my parents’ neighborhood”) and implicit information, which includes feelings, sights, sounds, and body sensations. All of this information is processed in our minds, and becomes incorporated into our experience of the world. It is our story, and it is how we learn about ourselves and the world.
During trauma, the Information Processing System may be interrupted. We get overwhelmed, what happens to us is too much to process, and the explicit and implicit information about the traumatic event (or often, events) gets stored in different parts of the brain. In a way, trauma shatters our psyches. Whether we remember all or part of the trauma doesn’t matter; what matters is that the event isn’t fully integrated, so that the pain of it, the sights and sounds around it, the story of it, remains, in a way, scattered about it our minds.

For some trauma survivors, traumatic events may play over and over in the mind, haunting our dreams or our waking moments; for others, the events may be stored deep in our psyche where they cannot easily be accessed. Either way, traumatized people are terrified, seemingly without reason. We are continually responding to life as though the trauma were still occurring, as though we were continually reliving it.

There are several hypotheses about how EMDR works. One is that stimulating the right and left sides of the brain simulates REM, the time in sleep where we process the events of the day. How EMDR works is less important to me than that it works: With the help of a trained therapist, we can re-connect the implicit and explicit information surrounding a trauma, and often neutralize our response to it. We stop reliving it. We have a story, set in a time and space, and all of the terrible negative emotions and beliefs about ourselves and the world that came out of the trauma are processed and transformed. Recalling the exact details of the trauma is unnecessary—the brain knows, with some help from a therapist, how to heal its wounds. I know people who have healed traumas that occurred when they were babies.

Emotion is energy in motion. EMDR helps trauma survivors access and move all the stuck emotions (or energy) around an event. With each trauma I have processed, in small and significant ways, my life has slowly become my own. I have a story of my life, and it is one that I can tell without reliving the agony of the events that make up part of this story.

EMDR has helped me reclaim my life. It is not quick and easy solution for people with complex trauma, but it is a powerful one. I have more space to move in my life, to make decisions about what I want, to know who I am and have always been. My “mirror” is being wiped clean, and I can see myself and the world from the perspective of one who has been wounded and healed.

I used to get so frustrated with myself. I believed I was constitutionally incapable of taking care of myself, of having a “normal,” balanced reaction to life, of making good decisions, or of setting aside the painful memories of my past. I was not incapable. I was simply too overwhelmed. Doing EMDR and embracing the help offered me by a loving, knowledgeable therapist and a diligent, brilliant psychiatrist, opened up enough space inside for me to learn how to find peace and balance in my life. Because I am not constantly in a state of terror and overwhelm, I can actually use the tools I’ve learned, including meditation, mindfulness, deep breathing, and asking others for help. For this, I will always be grateful.

For more information about EMDR and a list of EMDR therapists, go to the EMDR International Association’s web site. David Baldwin’s Trauma Pages have a number of excellent articles on memory and trauma processing.

(Photo: morganmarilyn70)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Few Notes

1 – Yesterday, Mike H added a blog roll to his blog and I experienced a pang of jealousy. The words, I want one, too!, sprang to mind. The problem is, I’m outgrowing the space on this template (bear with me, I’m in the process of rectifying this). Nevertheless, my very own blog roll is now at the bottom of the blog.

2 – I’m flying to North Carolina today for a working vacation week in a house on a lake with a friend. I expect to be fully functional and on the net. HOWEVER, if things don’t go as planned --- I’ll meet you back here next Monday and we’ll pick up where we left off.

3 – The Wholistic Counselor, a/k/a Lisa Canon, asked me to write a guest post about PTSD: a short overview of PTSD symptoms, causes, effects and treatments. If you want a short synopsis, say, to educate family and friends, you can check it out here.

PTSD Treatment: It's All About the Eyes

Today - and for the next week - BRIDGE THE GAP posts will cover information processing therapies. Don’t know what those are? Well then, this will be a very educational week!

It goes like this: Your brain processes events and stores memories in much the same way as a computer. Pathways are built and constructed for the cataloguing and retrieving of information. Sometimes, the circuitry is a little faulty – the information processing goes a little haywire and has to be, er, rewired. The EMDR Institute describes the process this way,

All humans are understood to have a physiologically-based information processing system. This can be compared to other body systems, such as digestion in which the body extracts nutrients for health and survival. The information processing system processes the multiple elements of our experiences and stores memories in an accessible and useful form. Memories are linked in networks that contain related thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations. Learning occurs when new associations are forged with material already stored in memory.

When a traumatic or very negative event occurs, information processing may be incomplete, perhaps because strong negative feelings or dissociation interfere with information processing. This prevents the forging of connections with more adaptive information that is held in other memory networks. For example, a rape survivor may “know” that rapists are responsible for their crimes, but this information does not connect with her feeling that she is to blame for the attack. The memory is then dysfunctionally stored without appropriate associative connections and with many elements still unprocessed. When the individual thinks about the trauma, or when the memory is triggered by similar situations, the person may feel like she is reliving it, or may experience strong emotions and physical sensations. A prime example is the intrusive thoughts, emotional disturbance, and negative self-referencing beliefs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

I’ve written about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) before in this overview (and, actually, several other places you can find by using the search function in the top left corner of the page).

Rather than repeat myself today, I thought I’d give you the basics as per the EMDR Institute, and then some resources for further investigation.

So, the basics:

The point of EMDR is to facilitate “the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.”

How does EMDR do this? Simple: During an EMDR session the client thinks about emotionally disturbing events, rates the amount of the disturbance on a scale of 1 – 10 and then goes through a series of eye movements (and sometimes, tapping and tones) as directed by the therapist. At the end, the disturbance is rated on a scale of 1 - 10 and the process repeated until the disturbance = 0.

In all of the information processing therapies the point is to sever the faulty neuropathways that trauma creates, thereby freeing us from their continued traumatic activity. A significant amount of the PTSD population uses EMDR and has reported good results. The key, as always, is to find a well-trained and professional practitioner with whom you feel safe, secure and comfortable in reviewing your memories.

The best source of info for EMDR is the EMDR Institute, Inc. Make sure you check out the ‘General Information’ tab, which explains the theory, background and basic 8 step process. The ‘Frequent Questions’ tab covers a wide range of educational topics, too.

Want to see EMDR in action? Check out these videos.

Gulf War Marine Tank Commander in Desert Storm Deals with PTSD at home.

Interview with EMDR therapist and civilian patient

Do you have specific questions about EMDR? Do you have personal experience with EMDR? Leave a comment. Let’s get to the bottom of things and share what we know!

(Photo: musicnpics)