The Link Between Trauma and Dissociative Disorders

By:  Dr. Shari Kim

EMDRIA Consultant

The human brain is amazing, and we don’t even fully grasp its potential. One of the truly spectacular things it can do is to protect us from things that are too traumatic to hold.  

As we experience traumatic events, we experience a variety of responses. Sometimes, when those events become overwhelming, our brain has the capacity to build compartments within itself to hold those events. The depth of those compartments may vary, meaning we might be able to hold things in them only for short periods of time before they pop back out. At other times, our brains may build them so deeply that we can no longer access them by our own volition. Sometimes our compartments take on lives of their own, developing unique identities.

As we explore how our brain compartmentalizes trauma in this way, it starts to become clear how this process makes us dissociate. The more compartments we build, the easier it is to become lost in them. When...

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Types of Attachment Wounds and their Effects on Relationships

attachment wounds Mar 04, 2024

By: Sarah Martin, LCPC, NCC

EMDRIA Consultant

My partner and I were having a disagreement one day. In true therapist fashion, I asked him a question about his childhood. His response back to me (he works in IT) was, “Does everything have to go back to childhood?” Well, when we’re talking about relationships and communication in relationships to best understand how we show up, we do have to go back to childhood. The relationships we had with our caregivers earlier on in life set the stage for our relationships with others throughout our lives. After all, our very first experience in life with a relationship is the one we experienced with our caregivers. Knowledge is power, and the more we understand about our experiences the better we can understand how to navigate them. Let’s first define attachment.

What is attachment?

I like the definition of attachment from the founder of the Trauma Specialists Training Institute, Rachel Harrison, LCPC, NCC. She defines...

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EMDR vs Traditional Talk Therapy

emdr therapy Feb 13, 2024

By:  April Lehman, LPC

EMDRIA Consultant in Training  

Back in 2011, when I started my journey as a therapist, I had in my toolbox of skills several talk therapies that I routinely used with my clients. I considered myself an eclectic therapist, but I routinely used my “go-to” therapies of cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing with my clients with co-occurring disorders. After attending a 2-day, live training in 2015 with Bessel van der Kolk on his book The Body Keeps the Score, I learned more about a therapy I was only vaguely familiar with at the time—Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Then in 2016, a coworker told me about a local EMDR training and I immediately signed up.  It’s not an overstatement to say this training changed the way I practice as a therapist. EMDR has some similar attributes of traditional talk therapy, but how does it contrast?

Let’s start by talking about how traditional...

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The Misunderstood Nature of Complex Trauma

complex trauma trauma Jan 09, 2024

By:  Lauren Rudolph, LPC

EMDRIA Consultant

When it comes to trauma, there are still myths floating around out there, such as: Trauma is only something veterans and people who go through life-threatening situations experience. Some people may still think “trauma is only in your head” or it’s something that will negatively affect your life forever.

It wouldn’t be surprising then that complex trauma, a relatively new concept, has its misconceptions and lack of understanding out there. Complex trauma typically refers to trauma that occurs in childhood and is ongoing, such as emotional abuse and/or neglect, bullying, domestic violence, etc. It can also include traumas experienced in both childhood and adulthood.

Here are 4 things everyone needs to know about complex trauma:

1. Complex trauma is often what did not happen to you

We tend to think of trauma as something that happens to someone. However complex trauma allows us to understand that we can be...

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How Are Trauma and Dissociation Linked

dissociation trauma Dec 05, 2023

By:  Lauren Rudolph, LPC

EMDRIA Consultant

As a therapist, I feel my journey continues to be finding out what I don’t know yet. Starting out in the field working with addictions, I realized, wow, there is a lot of trauma we are not treating. And, as I went on to become trained to treat trauma, I realized, wow, there is a lot of dissociation needing to be addressed. And, now that I have spent more time learning about complex trauma and dissociation, I’m noticing how pervasive these experiences are among the clients who we’re treating for mental health.

Let’s briefly review trauma. Trauma is the Greek word for “wound.” When we talk about psychological trauma, it can be a wound that is physical, psychological, or spiritual. Although the DSM 5 TR has criteria for defining what qualifies for a PTSD Diagnosis, trauma is a term that can encompass much more. Trauma used to be thought of as events such as natural disasters, near-death experiences, or...

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EMDR Therapy for Children & Teens: How Effective is It?

emdr therapy Nov 16, 2023

By:  Dante Brown

EMDRIA Consultant & Basic Trainer

In a world where the mental health of children and teens is a growing concern, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) emerges as a beacon of hope. With the stresses of modern life bearing down on young shoulders, EMDR provides a pathway for young people to navigate and cope with trauma and the challenges of growing up in today’s complex world. In my practice, I've witnessed firsthand the impact of EMDR, an evidence-based therapy acclaimed for its success in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults, now being thoughtfully tailored to the hearts and minds of children and teens.

Why EMDR for Children and Teens?

Young people process trauma and stress through a different lens than adults; their brains are a work in progress, and often they lack the vocabulary and cognitive tools to deal with deep-seated emotions. EMDR transcends the barriers of verbal communication, making it an especially...

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The Continuum of Dissociation

dissociative disorders Oct 12, 2023

By:  Shari Kim, Ph.D.

EMDRIA Consultant

Although we think of the various types of dissociative disorders as being a series of separate diagnoses, dissociation is really a continuum. On one end of the continuum is the sort of commonplace and infrequent dissociation that most people have, like absorption. Imagine you are driving or riding in a car somewhere, lost in thought, not really paying attention to where you are. Suddenly you look up and realize you are halfway to your destination and don’t remember the last 10 minutes of your travel. That type of dissociation is absorption.

 At the next level of dissociation are the types that come with PTSD, which are depersonalization and derealization. Depersonalization is the feeling of living in someone else’s body or being disconnected from one’s body, while derealization is the feeling of walking around in a dream state. Depersonalization might manifest as looking in the mirror and seeing an unfamiliar face...

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Can EMDR Therapy Treat Depression?

depression emdr therapy Sep 01, 2023

By:  Dante Brown

EMDRIA Consultant & Basic Trainer

 Depression: A Common Yet Complex Challenge with New Hope from EMDR Therapy

Depression, a widespread and intricate mental health condition affecting millions worldwide, casts a heavy shadow on the lives it touches. Initially designed by Francine Shapiro to address trauma-related disorders, EMDR therapy has expanded its reach beyond trauma related disorders, demonstrating promising outcomes in the realm of depressive disorders. 

Through hours of meticulous research into EMDRIA resources, podcasts, training, and experiences as an EMDR Therapist, this blog embarks on an exploration of the fusion between EMDR therapy and depression. In doing so, it illuminates how EMDR is emerging as a beacon of hope, offering solace to those grappling with this pervasive and intricate mental health challenge.

Unveiling the Potential

It's an open secret that exposure to trauma and household dysfunction, quantified by high ACE scores,...

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How to Best Train Clinicians in EMDR

emdr training Aug 14, 2023

By Rachel Harrison, LCPC

EMDRIA Approved Basic Trainer and Consultant

I am often asked the questions about how to train therapists by group practice owners or supervisors who recognize that there is a lot to learn after graduate school.  Graduate school is a foundation, but then the real development happens as clinicians learn to provide therapy that is beneficial to all different kinds of clients. 

Enter Trauma.  Being a trauma specialist as I am and my staff are, is an added layer of training.  And given that I spend a good deal of my time training therapists and training leaders, the question of how to best train in EMDR comes up frequently.

Now, I hear that not all EMDR trainings are created equal.  I know first hand that is true because my very first training and the way I teach in my trainings are vastly different.  Some of that is content, but a lot of that is style.

For my Training Institute, our belief is that training happens best in a...

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Bipolar Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder: What are the Differences

By  Jamie N. Sedgwick, LCPC, NCC

EMDRIA Consultant & Basic Trainer

“What is the difference between Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder?” I have had many clients and clinicians pose this question when exploring possible diagnoses and treatment planning. It has taken over 10 years of experience as a clinician specializing in trauma and working in several different treatment settings for me to feel confident in answering this question.

 Let’s start by taking a look at the technical, “on paper” diagnostic criteria for each.

Let’s Take a Look at Diagnostic Criteria

The Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) indicates that there are different categories of Bipolar Disorder including Bipolar Disorder I, Bipolar Disorder II, and Cyclothymic Disorder (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders: Fifth Edition. 2013. Pg 123). To understand the diagnostic differences between Bipolar Disorder...

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