This morning as I sit working on preparations to teach yet another EMDR Training in Denver next month, I am feeling gratitude for the opportunity to share this invaluable technique with other clinicians. What motivates me is my wish for those new EMDR clinicians to help many more people than I could ever help alone.
As clinicians, we recognize that the way one copes with trauma and challenges in life is largely the result of the foundation and resources they develop early in life. How we, as clinicians, help them to synthesize these experiences with adaptive resources is the solution. EMDR is built on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD. When EMDR is done with the proper protocol and case conceptualization, it can serve to resolve both current and early trauma, improve internal and external resources and ultimately provide the necessary synthesis to resolve the trauma.
Clinically, I see this fundamental understanding of trauma and development play out in every area of my Denver counseling practice. It applies with clients suffering from trauma due to domestic violence, sexual abuse, military combat, loss due to death or divorce, and major life changes and transitions. When I am working with someone involved in divorce, I generally find that the difference between one that is high-conflict and one that is not lies in the trauma history of one or both parties involved. When working with a client who is traumatized by a tragic event, natural disaster or health crisis, the same principles apply. A history of earlier unresolved trauma creates maladaptive memory networks, compromising one’s ability to cope with current crises.
EMDR’s value is tremendous. It is a comprehensive therapy and, for me, it is the lens through which treatment is conceptualized. It provides resolution of the presenting problem, but more importantly, it provides resolution of past traumas that have led to maladaptive behaviors, cognitions and feelings. By impacting change in past memory networks, the ability to manage present and future obstacles and challenges improves dramatically. As a clinician, it is invaluable. I continue to be amazed and privileged to witness the way it impacts my clients’ lives, their beliefs about themselves and the world around them, and their overall therapeutic experience. That all said, I am grateful and excited to embark on another training to share this life changing therapy with others.
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC is a clinician practicing in the Denver Tech Center. She specializes in EMDR therapy, consultation and training. For more information on EMDR or her trainings, please visit her training website at http://www.emdroftherockies.com. For information on Tamra’s psychotherapy practice visit http://thcounseling.com
Following the tragic events of the Movie Theater shooting, and other horrific events over the last decade or two, it is frequently difficult for individuals to cope with the feelings and anxiety that are elicited by those tragedies. Regardless of whether you were witness to the scene, knew someone who was a victim of, or witness to, the tragedy, or if you are just hearing about it from friends or media, it is shocking and difficult to understand.
Symptoms of trauma can include nightmares, depression, anxiety and panic, feelings of insecurity or disbelief that such a tragedy could have happened. Being aware of how you feel is the first step to taking care of yourself in such an aftermath. There are also other things to keep in mind when trying to cope in the face of such a devastating story:
- Remember that feelings of shock and confusion are normal in the aftermath of a very abnormal and tragic event.
- Talk to people about your feelings.
- Spend time with the people you are close to and love.
- Involve yourself in activities you enjoy.
- Nurture yourself.
- Exercise. This releases endorphins which are helpful in the healing process.
- Give yourself time to heal.
If you find yourself in a position where your symptoms are not improving, or you don’t have anyone with whom to talk about your emotions, it is good to seek support or counseling to help you to recover from the shock. There is help available for processing something as difficult to understand as these unthinkable human tragedies.
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC http://www.thcounseling.com
Grieving the loss of someone you love is one of the hardest experiences to go through in life, and it is an experience most of us will encounter at some point. Finding a way to cope with the deep emotions that loss elicits can be overwhelming, and if not dealt with properly, it can lead to feelings of isolation and hopelessness. It is imperative to take time to nurture your wounds following loss, but it is equally important to do it in a way that will eventually create feelings of new hope and happiness for the future. The reality is that grieving itself is important. Being sad about the loss, crying and reminiscing are all valuable tributes to your loved one, and cathartic in the grief process. Nevertheless, there is a time when the sadness needs to evolve into the action of healing.
Many people have found solace in the wake of loss or disaster by taking action and improving their life, the world, or the lives of others as a tribute to their loved one. Take for example the Susan G. Komen foundation, established by Susan G. Komen’s family following her death from breast cancer. Another example is the establishment of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), or on a smaller scale, someone who speaks publicly about a tragic loss in hopes of preventing further unnecessary loss or just in hopes of motivating individuals to make the most out of every day. There are even ways to cope with loss that are more personal, less public, and yet still meaningful in the process of recovering from grief. It is not to say that there may not always be some lingering sadness when reflecting on the memory of someone who you loved and lost. However, letting the spirit of living resound within you can add a new and very fulfilling meaning or purpose to your life. The following are some suggestions that may help get you started on the path to feeling better:
- Start by writing about your loved one. Create a memoir or a poem. Celebrate their life. If you could describe your best memory of the person, what would it look like?
- Consider how this person impacted your life. What did you learn from them? What did you love about them? Did you grow or change as a result of the relationship you had with them? For example, are you more caring? A better listener than you used to be? Are you stronger?
- When we lose someone, it changes what is called our ‘assumptive world.’ That is the world as we know it and expect it to be. We may have considered it to be predictable, reliable and safe. We may have acted as though the person would always be there, and now they are not. Losing this person may call into question many things we had previously taken for granted or ‘assumed’ and now we have to restructure or create a new perspective about how the world works and what we consider to be predictable. What does your new assumptive world look like? Looking through a lens of optimism, what could your new assumptive world look like?
- Consider the relationship with this person as part of your story, the story of your life. Did they encompass a chapter or many chapters? Think of how you would like the rest of your story to read. How can your experiences with your loved one create meaning in your future, even though they are no longer here? How can their memory live on through you?
- Take positive action. Reach out to others. Embrace life and enjoy each day. Laugh with friends, smile with friends, and spread the spirit of meaningfulness to those around you.
The process of grief and healing can take time. However, if you are feeling it is simply too difficult to manage, reach out and talk to someone. Being in the presence of friends and family can help, or take some time to talk with a professional. There are many wonderful therapists and support groups that can assist you in walking through what can be such a tremendously difficult time. There is life after loss. However, remember that it takes time, patience and often help, to get through it and begin to enjoy all that life has to offer.
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC http://www.thcounseling.com
The holiday season can be a particularly challenging time for people who are coping with the loss of a loved one. Trying to find ways to endure the sadness often creates feelings of depression, lack of motivation, and disinterest in being around others. However, there are ways to allow your love for that special person to help make this time even more meaningful and to let it become a celebration of their life, even if only in some small gesture.
• Create a tradition in honor of their memory. Light a candle each night of the holiday season in their honor, or host an open house each year at this time that you consider to be in their memory. Maybe you could bake their favorite cookies each year during the holidays or have a special meal that they loved.
• Make it a habit to remember the positives that they put into this world and say a word of thanks for them.
• Give a gift to a child in need knowing in your heart that it is in honor of your loved one.
• There are some beautiful children’s books written about love and loss that are wonderful to read, regardless of your age. One in particular is The Invisible String, written by Patrice Karst. It is a story that serves to remind us all that we are all connected to those we love, be they near or far, living or deceased. Reading a comforting book like that can also ease the pain during the difficult holiday time.
When grieving, try to be proactive with your feelings. Think of things that you can do to honor the positive memories you have of them and celebrate the life they lived. Most of all, don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to someone about how you are feeling. Grief is an extremely painful emotion, but it is also something from which we can grow, learn and love.
As unpleasant as sadness and disappointment are to experience, it is often in the midst of those times, or immediately following them that one feels most inspired and philosophical about life. It is a time when, in trying to make sense of what has happened that has hurt or angered someone, or in any way left them feeling uncomfortable, that they try to understand from many angles the benefit or learning experience contained in the situation.
It is our nature as human beings to learn from painful experiences. For example, if a child were to touch a hot stove and be burned, rarely would that child do it again. The memory of the pain is stored in the limbic system of the brain reminding him that touching a hot burner hurts. Similarly, we are cautious about emotional experiences after being “burned”. However, emotional wounds are far more complicated as we try to understand why something good such as falling in love with someone, could cause so much pain when it ends. Most people are willing to venture into future relationships after such an experience, but never is it as naively as it is with the first love, when one has not yet experienced the pain of love lost. It is our nature as human beings to learn from discomfort, be it physical or emotional. There is opportunity in most discomfort from which we can learn and grow.
Things to think about:
Think of two or three of the saddest times in your life. Describe them and what the disappointments were that were involved.
Think of two or three of the happiest times in your life. What was so elating to you about them? Did you reach a goal? Did you feel pleased with a choice you made? Was there something unconditional about the experience?
Now think about whether or not there is any relation between those sad times and happy times. Were there things you learned or valued more as a result of the struggles that contributed to your happy experiences?
Without sadness would we really know what happiness is? Is it not that due to the contrast we can truly experience and enjoy the good things life has to offer?
Tamra Hughes, MA, LPC http://www.thcounseling.com