What is Trauma and Do You Need Trauma Therapy?


The word trauma is used to describe experiences or situations that are emotionally distressing, too overwhelming for someone to cope with, and create a feeling of powerlessness. Trauma can occur frequently and become part of the collective human experience, but counselling through EMDR therapy can help relieve this distress.

Causes of Trauma

While some causes of trauma are easily recognizable, others are less so. Trauma can stem from a variety of incidents, including:

  • Falls or sports injuries

  • Surgery (especially in the first 3 years of life)

  • Sudden death of someone close

  • Car accident

  • Breakup or end of a significant relationship

  • Humiliating or deeply disappointing experience

  • Discovery of a life-threatening illness or disabling condition

  • Learning about an affair or betrayal

Everyone experiences trauma differently, but there are some key symptoms to watch out for.

Hyper-arousal is when the traumatized person’s physiology is in high gear. It’s been assaulted by the psychological impact of what happened and is unable to reset. Symptoms of hyper-arousal include irritability, anger, panic, and difficulty sleeping or concentrating.

Constriction happens when the body tightens up and is unable to fight or flee.

Disassociation occurs when there is a separation of awareness from physical reality. It’s a means of experiencing moments that are not endurable. Woody Allen perhaps said it best: “I am not afraid of dying; I just don’t want to be there.”

Denial is a disconnection between the person and the event. It’s often accompanied by feelings of helplessness and complete immobilization.

EMDR Trauma Therapy: What to Expect & How It Works

What is an EMDR session like? The client and therapist initially work together to collect necessary information about the traumatic experience, including identifying the most disturbing part of the incident. This becomes the processing target.

Using a scale of 1-7, the client is then asked to rate how true a positive belief feels when paired with the target. It’s not uncommon for clients to say it does not feel true at this point.

  • E.g. “It’s over, and I can now move on with my life.”

We ask the client to name the emotions the target elicits rating the associated distress level on a scale of 0-10 and locating the disturbance in the body.

  • E.g. Fear and shame with disturbance level 4 in the belly and chest

The client then holds an awareness of the target, the negative belief, and the disturbing body sensations. At the same time, the therapist instructs the client to move his or her eyes back and forth rapidly. This is done in sets, which may last from a few seconds to a few minutes. During each set, the client is instructed to notice any changes that occur in mind and body, without controlling the experience in any way. There is often an increase in the disturbance level during the first few sets. With each new set, the target tends to become less and less disturbed, and the positive belief feels more and more real.

The target is completely processed when recall of the image no longer brings up disturbing emotions, and the positive belief feels right.

EMDR is the most researched treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Contact our team with the link below to learn more about EMDR therapy and how it can be used to overcome a trauma that you have experienced.