Trauma is all too common among veterans of the armed forces, and the stressful, profound experiences witnessed on tour can stick with veterans long after their time in service has concluded. The lingering effects of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have massive ramifications on one’s daily lifestyle, and finding effective treatment and recovery modalities is crucial for challenging these effects and creating a healthy life. 

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is just one of the proven recovery options available for veterans navigating their trauma recovery while transitioning to a healthy, civilian life. 

What Is EMDR?

EMDR is a proven form of therapy developed for the treatment of symptoms of trauma and PTSD. However, it has also found success in a wide array of recovery areas, helping individuals overcome many things from anxiety and panic to stress, personality disorders, and even addiction.

This form of therapy utilizes a combination of dedicated strategies, professional guidance, and tools to help those suffering from trauma or other emotionally trying experiences. It helps them navigate unhealthy memories and thought patterns while acknowledging how these experiences continue to impact their life. By acknowledging negative thoughts, beliefs, and experiences, an individual can then reconstruct these notions in a positive light with newfound beliefs or truths. 

EMDR for veterans can be a crucial tool to navigate traumatic experiences from one’s time in active duty, from life-threatening scenarios and military sexual trauma (MST) to the traumas of physical injury or losing brothers and sisters in arms.

Addressing each veteran’s physical and emotional reactions to these traumatic memories makes it possible to restructure these experiences into a more manageable emotional state. EMDR not only helps acknowledge and process these experiences but also improves resilience, helping veterans navigate their past for a healthier future. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy developed in the late 1980s by California psychologist Francine Shapiro.

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The Goals of EMDR

EMDR is not a modality that seeks to help an individual forget about past traumas or attempt to reframe them into something positive. Rather, it is a practice dedicated to allowing an individual to accept these aspects of their past without granting these memories continued power over their thoughts and behaviors. The release of these negative reactions to trauma allows an individual to embrace new beliefs and perspectives. Veterans are exposed to traumatizing scenarios throughout their time in service, but rather than denying their impact on an individual, EMDR can help veterans accept these experiences and process them safely. 

Engaging in Effective EMDR Treatment

EMDR treatment is different from traditional talk therapy as professionals guide each individual through their memories and traumatic experiences in a safe space, with dedicated talk sessions limited to the first few introductory sessions. The first few sessions are spent on personal exploration, defining one’s experiences and traumas to create a directed treatment plan while building trust between EMDR professionals and veterans to prepare for future sessions. 

Next, professionals work with the individual to assess the effects of trauma on their body and mind and identify the physical responses to such memories. Identifying negative reactions and feelings can take a couple of sessions; however, this is essential for recognizing where positive replacement ideas and perspectives can be explored throughout one’s healing. 

Once new perspectives, ideas, and thoughts can be installed, professionals will use tools and strategies to desensitize an individual to the negative effects of their memories while prompting them to focus on new, positive ideas. Through bilateral movements of light, alternating sounds, or one’s finger over dedicated sessions, it is possible to delegitimize the alleged power that these memories hold over each person and their thoughts and beliefs. 

Professionals then guide an individual through thoughts and memories in conjunction with these stimuli and tools to address the effects of trauma. Each of these sessions will also end with a calming period to ensure that one feels better than when they began and doesn’t continue to harbor difficult feelings outside of a dedicated professional setting. 

Through effective EMDR treatment, participants will not only be able to recall these memories without experiencing the same physical or psychological symptoms as before but also be able to accept these memories. This means future sessions can be dedicated to continuing to strengthen newfound perspectives and ideas to build resilience.

Trauma Therapy
Trauma Therapy

What exactly is trauma and what types of trauma exist? What do symptoms of trauma look like? Read the following article.

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Creating a Comprehensive Approach to Healing

EMDR treatment is not used in isolation, and combining EMDR with other therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), experiential therapies, and active spiritual engagement, are all crucial in creating a well-rounded approach to healing the whole self. 

While EMDR can help veterans challenge the traumas and stresses that they may experience, combining therapeutic approaches and finding a dedicated social outlet with peers is part of an effective recovery process. Where EMDR is not necessary for every individual and each veteran will have their own response to its efficacy, it is a proven resource for veterans ready to challenge the effects of trauma on their lives for a healthier future. 

EMDR treatment is a powerful and effective approach to navigating recovery from trauma, and we at Hawaii Island Recovery are committed to helping you find your own best practices. We understand the complex nature of recovery, especially for members of the armed forces. Our dedicated, trauma-informed veteran programs are available to you to create your own best approach to healing. We believe in healing the whole self, not just addressing symptoms. By combining effective EMDR practices with other informed treatment modalities and the unique spiritual advantages of Hawaii, we can create a recovery program that is right for you. For more information on how we can personalize your time with us, or to speak to a caring, trained staff member about how we can be a resource for your ongoing recovery, call us today at (866) 390-5070. Your healing journey starts with a phone call.