A form of anxiety, post traumatic stress can develop after being exposed to trauma, whether mental or physical. Because military combatants serve in traumatic environments, military veterans disproportionately experience mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and other less common issues.
Memories and experiences are how we navigate the world, steer clear of danger, and gain insight into what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, memories and experiences can contain such painful emotional material that they leave lasting negative impressions.
Whether you experience a traumatic event in the military or another type of trauma, it can be challenging to process and feel impossible to get through. When this happens it can provoke PTSD and other mental health issues.
The average human body will return to baseline levels shortly after experiencing an overwhelming experience. In contrast, people experiencing PTSD continue to release stress-related hormones and chemicals long after the threat is gone. The following symptoms are the most common signs of PTSD.
If you suffer from PTSD, you may regularly experience flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive, upsetting memories of the traumatic event. This can involve having severe reactions to objects or situations that remind you of it.
Having PTSD can cause you to stay away from people, places, things, and thoughts that remind you of the event. Those close to you may comment that you seem emotionally numb or guarded, detached from everyday life, and disinterested in activities you used to enjoy.
PTSD can cause you to constantly examine your surroundings for indications of danger, no matter have safe your environment may be. This can lead to issues concentrating, increased impatience or anger, and trouble sleeping.
Talk therapies can be essential for treating PTSD. The two most effective forms of therapy for treating PTSD are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy and Prolonged Exposure (PE) Therapy. Medical guidelines strongly recommend both of these approaches for the treatment of post-traumatic stress.
EMDR treatment focuses on targeting the negative beliefs and emotions that result from trauma and replacing them with new beliefs that empower you to live a more satisfying life. This process, invaluable for making peace with past traumas, is considered a success once you are able to bring up traumatic memories without suffering from them. Our counselors are experienced in guiding EMDR therapy for veterans with PTSD.
Prolonged exposure is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that prepares you to gradually approach memories, emotions, and circumstances that trigger PTSD. When you give in to the natural urge to avoid experiences that remind you of your trauma, you reinforce your fear and anxiety. PE Therapy for PTSD grants the chance to incrementally face what has been avoided, enabling you to reframe the trauma-related memories as not dangerous.
We have ex-military counselors at Louis Laves-Webb, LCSW, LPC-S & Associates that specialize in working with veterans. They are driven to provide exceptional PTSD counseling to improve military mental health one patient at a time. We also offer marriage counseling for veterans. It’s our way of saying thank you to veterans.
Before beginning EMDR, your trauma therapist will get to know more about your experiences and symptoms. This step is for you to share about events in your past that may be affecting your current mindset.
This stage is about ensuring your readiness for EMDR. Even though EMDR therapy for trauma is completely safe, it can be problematic for individuals who commonly experience dissociation. As a safeguard, your trauma therapist will work with you to create your own “calm place” to concentrate on if you feel distressed.
It’s now time to choose a target to be reprocessed during your next few sessions. In doing so, you’ll need to identify a vivid image related to the memory, a negative cognition about yourself associated with it, and emotions and bodily sensations that accompany both. Your therapist will then have you challenge that negative cognition with a cognitive one. They will have you rate how true your positive cognition feels and how much distress the target memory causes you on a scale from 1-10.
This is where Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing comes into play. When you feel ready, your therapist will guide you to process your negative feelings and memories using bilateral eye movements to facilitate the brain’s healing process. This will help to ground you and take more directed focus on the thoughts, feelings, and images associated with your target. Every minute or so, your therapist will check in on what you’ve noticed and ask you to rate how much discomfort you’re now feeling. When you no longer report distress related to your targeted memory, you move onto the next step.
Next, your attention will be brought back to the positive cognition you identified earlier. Your trauma/PTSD therapist will recheck how true this belief now feels. The goal is to get this belief to feel like it’s 100 percent true.
You will now be asked to check your body for any areas of tension in your body caused by the target memory. Are your teeth clenched? Is your chest tight? Any uncomfortable physical sensations will be reprocessed using the same procedure as before until you can think of the target memory without feeling any tension.
At the end of every session, your trauma counselor will make sure that you are leaving feeling more relaxed than when you arrived. If you are feeling agitated, they will lead you through self-calming techniques until you regain your sense of control.
At the beginning of each subsequent session, your therapist will ask you questions to ensure your positive beliefs have been maintained. This will also help them to identify any new problem areas that may need to be targeted.
EMDR therapy for trauma is considered a success once you are able to bring up memories of trauma without feeling the distress that brought you to therapy. Your trauma therapist will also provide you with the techniques and skills you need going forward to deal with upsetting feelings.