Helping adults recover from emotional trauma caused by sexual abuse, either suffered in childhood or in the present time, I employ Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a therapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR. It is a non-invasive, relatively rapid-acting treatment that can produce dramatic recoveries and in most cases promotes immediate relief and well-being.

Get Help With Emotional Trauma From Sexual Abuse

To make an appointment with Dr. Z, call (678) 554-5632 or fill out the online appointment request. We can go over your current situation, identify the ways in which the lingering effects of past or recent emotional trauma are affecting your life and that of your loved ones, or how current conflicts or low functioning are impairing important relationships. We will put some dimensions to the problem and identify your current resources that may be applied toward meaningful and lasting change. If additional resources and skills are needed, we will treat your severe symptoms with CBT and help you feel calmer and increase your ability to choose the most appropriate response to each situation. If appropriate, we will treat specific trauma issues with EMDR. Treating emotional trauma is feasible, proven to be effective, and has helped many people who had a variety of different symptoms and challenges. Call and make your appointment today and we can get started!

Some dietary supplements may be helpful with symptoms of anxiety and depression that often accompany emotional trauma, when used in conjunction with cognitive behavioral therapy and EMDR. Click here for more information about dietary supplements.

What Is EMDR?

The technique known as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain's information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can causes intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

Twenty positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 70,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 20 years.

EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist's hand as it moves back and forth across the client's field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, "I survived it and I am strong." Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.

For more information, visit the website of the EMDR Institute. Dr. Z is a certified EMDR practitioner and clinician.

What Is Emotional Trauma Resulting From Sexual Abuse?

Traumatic memories and all memories in general are processed by the brain and stored in different ways. Even mildly traumatic experiences can sometimes become etched or "burned-in" with a high degree of detail. In these cases, it is not only the memory of the fact that is preserved, but also the intense emotional experience of it. When a significant event is moderate in emotional intensity, it is usually stored in long-term memory. The long-term memory process works as it should and the memory of significant events is stored and remains retrievable throughout our lifespan. Traumatic events, on the other hand, can disrupt this process and cause the brain to store memories almost entirely as emotions or sensations rather than as a nearly emotion-free recollection of facts. When events are particularly traumatic, the brain can attempt to mitigate the effects of the trauma by burying the memory very deeply, sometimes even to the point of blocking it entirely from recollection.

The Mental Effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adults

Researchers describe the effects of sexual child abuse as complex posttraumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD). The most common symptoms of C-PTSD are problems with emotional regulation (being "up" and then suddenly "down" with or without an apparent trigger), alterations in consciousness (the feeling of "not being here"), alterations in self-perception (the feeling of "not being me") and the perception of others (they may feel unreal or strange), and alterations in systems of meaning (purpose of life, ability to enjoy life.) This indicates that changes have occurred in the way the brain processes information ("alterations"), especially memory and consciousness. Later in life, there may be certain sensory "triggers" that cause seemingly forgotten material to resurface, often at inappropriate times and circumstances. The memories related to the trauma may return in the form of pure sensations or emotions, sometimes involving "flashbacks" that feel like the memory is being partially re-experienced. Traumatic memories may become progressively more focused until they become a full recollection of the event and the traumatic emotions associated with it.  This phenomenon (and its symptoms) may vary in intensity. At at its worst, it is known as complex posttraumatic stress disorder or C-PTSD.

Memory-Repression of Childhood Sexual Abuse in Adults

Traumatic sexual experiences always involve a betrayal of trust, particularly in childhood abuse, and can cause severe suffering, impaired daily functioning, increased risk of further victimization and perpetration of abuse, and diverse mental health and relationship problems.

Betrayal trauma theory suggests that psychogenic amnesia (the "forgetting" of unpleasant memories) is an adaptive response to childhood sexual abuse. When a parent or other powerful figure (a significantly older child or an adult) violates a fundamental ethic of human relationships, the victim may subconsciously choose to block the memory of the trauma to reduce suffering and to ensure survival. Psychogenic amnesia enables the child to maintain normalcy, which is vital to survival, development, and thriving. The degree to which a sexual abuse victim feels as having been fundamentally cheated or betrayed by another person may significantly influence the individual's willingness to "remember" experience of trauma, the degree to which the event is easily recalled, and the psychological as well as behavioral responses in relationships with other people.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and EMDR treatment (How Does It Work?) can help in the process of becoming aware of the impact of traumatic memories on well-being and functioning, assist in their gradual re-processing, and help the individual manage and make sense of this newly found awareness of traumas that occurred earlier in life.

To make an appointment with Dr. Z for a comprehensive evaluation of C-PTSD (mild, moderate or severe) and its treatment with psychotherapy (CBT) and, if warranted, EMDR, call (678) 554-5632 or fill out the online appointment request.