EMDR, which stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing,” is a well-known treatment for trauma. Therapists often use the technique for those living with post-traumatic stress disorder but it finds many applications elsewhere. Interestingly, there is now mounting evidence that EMDR can also help your marriage. It turns out that people who use this therapy can reduce the daily toll their trauma creates and help them to overcome marital difficulties.
Five Ways that EMDR therapy Can Help Partners with Trauma.
1. Partner with Attachment disorder
Childhood trauma may have created an attachment disorder that causes a partner to have difficulty trusting or feeling secure in a relationship. Attachment Focused EMDR (AF-EMDR) can specifically help with this.
AF-EMDR is a specific protocol that builds on the standard EMDR approach and is particularly effective in dealing with attachment and relational trauma deficits. It helps your partner deal with neglect during childhood, early losses (particularly of caregivers), birth trauma, sexual and physical abuse, and parental drug and alcohol abuse.
Most people with attachment disorder present as depressed and often have difficulties at work. Many of them report not feeling fully alive and have a profound difficulty experiencing a sense of safety in adulthood. Many find it difficult to form close emotional bonds with their partners.
AF-EMDR helps relational healing through the interaction of the patient with the therapist. Patients can voice their inner lives in a place of stillness and safety, allowing their true self to emerge.
2. Victims of Sexual Trauma
When a person has experienced some form of trauma associated with sex, there may be problems with intimacy and vulnerability in the current relationship that manifest as PTSD and sexual problems. EMDR can help reduce the painful memories of that trauma.
According to research by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, one in three women and one in six men will experience some sort of sexual abuse during their lifetime. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t know how to cope with it when it occurs. They may feel shame or guilt which later manifests in depression and anxiety. Statistics show that around 35 percent of men and 81 percent of women will go on to develop some form of PTSD after experiencing sexual abuse.
EDMR sessions for sexual abuse can offer patients lasting relief from their PTSD symptoms. Over time, regular life experiences appear less overwhelming, and the patient feels less disturbed. By combining eye movements with focus on specific aspects of the abuse, patients can confront thoughts and emotions associated with sexual abuse, and deal with them.
3. Complex PTSD (C-PTSD)
Combat exposure and childhood physical abuse are the main causes of PTSD. Researchers now believe than any form of intense trauma may trigger it. Unfortunately, PTSD has the capacity for disturbing both spousal relationships, and relationships with your entire family. Complex PTSD is regular PTSD plus a host of additional symptoms, including feeling angry and distrustful of the world, and trouble controlling emotions. Many people with the condition have a constant feeling of emptiness or worthlessness, and they may believe that they are completely different from other people.
Complex PTSD can lead to enduring personality change following a damaging event which, in turn, can affect your marriage. Sometimes, therapists refer to it as a “disorder of extreme stress” because of how it starts.
Many people with complex PTSD experience emotional flashbacks. Here, the mind repeats traumatic episodes and makes the patient feel like they are happening all over again. Partners who have these experiences feel fear, shame, sadness, anger, and despair.
EMDR is a valuable therapeutic treatment for PTSD because it allows patients to confront and process lingering emotional, and mental distress in a systematic way. Therapy begins with history taking and then moves onto preparation, assessment of the specific traumatic memories, and then desensitization. The goal is to achieve closure, meaning that the client feels “grounded” before leaving the session.
As a concept, betrayal trauma first emerged in 1991 following the work of psychologist Jennifer Freyd. She described it as a type of trauma in which the betrayed person continues to seek the support or protection of the betrayer.
Betrayal trauma can occur in parent-child relationships, but it is also common in romantic partners, causing lasting trauma. For instance, a partner in a romantic relationship may depend on their spouse for social and financial resources. They may fear the consequences of acknowledging what happened, pushing them into a traumatic episode. Even if spouses don’t rely on romantic relationships for their physical survival needs, they often require them for their emotional survival. When betrayal arrives, it destroys trust and leaves the betrayed person feeling that they are without psychological necessities, such as companionship, emotional support, and love.
EMDR helps with betrayal trauma by assisting the affected person access and digest their deep emotions. Over time, it can lead to an improvement in your relationship, even if you are not the person who betrayed your partner.
5. Domestic violence
Professionals do not recommend couples therapy for domestic violence cases. Instead, it is safer to end the relationship. Even so, EMDR therapy can help victims of domestic abuse (sometimes called intimate partner abuse)
Before people go through EMDR, they often find that their minds are on replay, ruminating on the abuse that they received. Thus, not only is there lasting physical damage from abusive relationships, but also psychological harm as well.
Over time, revisiting painful memories associated with past relationships can become entrenched. It can be hard for the abused person to escape thinking about them.
While the emotions are painful, patients don’t necessarily have to live with them for the rest of their lives. EMDR for domestic violence works in a similar way as it does for PTSD survivors, and those with complex PTSD. As a result of EMDR therapy, the memory patterns lose their power, and the survivor will experience relief from the painful memories.
EMDR and Marriage Counseling in the Denver area
If you need help with trauma that is affecting your relationship, we are here for you. We invite you to call us at 720-551-4553 for a free 20-minute phone consultation with a marriage specialist. You can read more about our Marriage Counseling & Couples therapy services by clicking here.
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