Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
Peter Levine (1997) wrote that "Trauma is perhaps the most avoided, ignored, belittled, denied, misunderstood and untreated cause of human suffering...[it is the] byproduct of an instinctively instigated, altered state of consciousness...Trauma is a basic rupture-loss of connection-to ourselves, our families, and the world. " It is hard to believe that this quote is 25 years old, but it is still relevant and true for those that have survived trauma.
Further, unprocessed traumatic experiences can have a profound impact on individuals, leading to symptom manifestations in mental health, chronic illness, and injury (Shapiro, 2018,) as traumatized individuals feel dysregulated in their nervous systems, which may lead to hyperarousal or hypoarousal. When traumatic experiences are prolonged and repeated, and early attachment systems ruptured, additional symptoms of pathological dissociation, chronic emotional dysregulation, somatization, and altered schemas about the self, others, and the world manifest (van Dijke et al., 2015).
EMDR as a means to decrease trauma symptoms
A trauma-informed approach in therapy recognizes that each individual has their own reactions to experienced and/or witnessed trauma, and responds by creating safety, trust, education, and support for a continued challenging of symptoms. EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is one such therapeutic approach. Used in the treatment of PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic disorder, and stressful life changes (death, divorce, etc.), EMDR is a highly successful therapy that has been extensively researched and utilized since it's inception by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. EMDR assists in the reprocessing of distressing memories, with the goal of decreasing the intensity of the emotions, reducing reaction to the memories, challenging negative thoughts, and changing the way that the brain stores the memories (reducing the "body memories").
EMDR and SSP
Combining the SSP and EMDR therapy follows a therapeutic framework that is grounded in the phase-oriented treatment of traumatic stress (Courtois & Ford, 2020; Courtois & Ford, 2015; Van der Hart et al., 1989), and considers Affective Neuroscience (Pankseep, 2004), Attachment Theory (Bowlby, 1988; Liotti, 2006), and the Polyvagal Theory (Porges, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2003, 2007, 2018). By combining the SSP in conjunction with EMDR, the resulting impact is to decrease trauma symptoms that are held in the autonomic nervous system as well as emotionally, psychologically, and behaviorally.
Dr. Graham is a fully credentialed therapist and provider of EMDR services since 2007. She is also a 2021 graduate of Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk's Trauma Research Foundation in Traumatic Stress Studies. She is certified in Dr. Stephen Porge's SSP/Safe and Sound Protocol, and is a 2022 graduate of Deb Dana's Foundations of Polyvagal Informed Practice training program.