EMDR for Complex PTSD

EMDR for Complex PTSD

Many studies have shown Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing (EMDR) to be very effective for treating Complex PTSD (C-PTSD), but there are some additional considerations and elements of the treatment that are modified or added from treatment of single-event PTSD.

One modification that needs to be made to the EMDR sessions for treating complex PTSD is noting ‘any kind of dysregulation or disassociation. This can be accounted for early on, during the history-taking portion of the treatment.

When someone disassociates, they are separating themselves from their feelings or thoughts. This is more than walling-off emotions so that they can’t hurt you. It’s quite literally mentally disconnecting yourself from those feelings.

It’s not an uncommon occurrence for those with C-PTSD. The therapist might have to work with the client on their disassociation first before fully engaging in EMDR.’

Another modification to EMDR to consider when treating C-PTSD is the time frame for treatment. Because C- PTSD includes ‘many more thoughts, memories, and experiences, the time frame for treatment gets longer. The exact length of time will vary depending on the person and their individual needs.

The reason is simple, with complex trauma symptoms there are more traumatic events to work through. The word “complex” means that you were exposed to multiple (perhaps ongoing) traumatic experiences.

That much trauma will take time to unpack and sort through. However, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make progress. Through EMDR therapy you can help your brain to eventually “stand-down,” sort-to-speak, and not continuously sound the alert’ – even after multiple, repeated or sustained traumas. 

Working through complex trauma may be hard at first, but it’s worth being able to finally resolve it and its symptoms. Of course, it’s important to acknowledge it may not be easy. And that’s why for some people participating in additional counselling before, or alongside EMDR, will improve your chances of success.

Tomorrow CAN be a new day.

 

Please remember, these are not medical recommendations. Be sure to work with a professional to find the best methods for you. EMDR should always be delivered by properly trained therapists. 

How effective is EMDR?


Research has shown that EMDR can be very effective, very quickly in treating PTSD and C-PTSD. Read about some of the research that has been done in this area here .

What happens in an EMDR session?


Find out more about the different phases of EMDR treatment and how the sessions will differ as you progress.

Things to know before starting EMDR therapy


It’s important for people to go into EMDR therapy with an full understanding of what the treatment requires and entails. 

  • EMDR Institute

  • EMDR Association

  • Universiteit van Amsterdam (UVA). (2017, June 29). PTSD in children quickly and effectively treatable within hours. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 23, 2021 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/06/170629085311.htm

  • Carletto Sara, Borghi Martina, Bertino Gabriella, Oliva Francesco, Cavallo Marco, Hofmann Arne, Zennaro Alessandro, Malucchi Simona, Ostacoli LucaTreating Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Patients with Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled Trial Comparing the Efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and Relaxation Therapy Frontiers in Psychology VOL. 7 2016 Page 526 https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00526 DOI10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00526

  • Chen L, Zhang G, Hu M, Liang X. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing versus cognitive-behavioral therapy for adult posttraumatic stress disorder: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2015 Jun;203(6):443-51. doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000306. PMID: 25974059.

  • Chen Y-R, Hung K-W, Tsai J-C, Chu H, Chung M-H, Chen S-R, et al. (2014) Efficacy of Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for Patients with Posttraumatic-Stress Disorder: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. PLoS ONE 9(8): e103676. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103676

  • Bisson, J., Roberts, N.P., Andrew, M., Cooper, R. & Lewis, C. (2013).  Psychological therapies for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults (Review). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003388.pub4

  • Bradley, R., Greene, J., Russ, E., Dutra, L., & Westen, D. (2005).A multidimensional meta-analysis of psychotherapy for PTSD.  American Journal of Psychiatry, 162, 214-227.

  • Lee, C.W., & Cuijpers, P. (2013).  A meta-analysis of the contribution of eye movements in processing emotional memories. Journal of Behavior Therapy & Experimental Psychiatry, 44, 231-23

  • Seidler, G.H., & Wagner, F.E. (2006). Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: a meta-analytic study. Psychological Medicine, 36,1515-1522.

  • Acarturk, C., Konuk, E., Cetinkaya, M., Senay, I., Sijbrandij, M., Gulen, B., & Cuijpers, P. (2016). The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Syrian refugees: Results of a randomized controlled trial. Psychological medicine46(12), 2583-2593

  • Raymond W. Gunter, Glen E. Bodner, How eye movements affect unpleasant memories: Support for a working-memory account, Behaviour Research and Therapy, Volume 46, Issue 8, 2008, Pages 913-931, ISSN 0005-7967,https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2008.04.006.

  • Comparison of two treatments for traumatic stress: A community-based study of EMDR and prolonged exposure, Ironson, B. Freund, J. L. Strauss, J. Williams

  • Scheck MM, Schaeffer JA, Gillette C. Brief psychological intervention with traumatized young women: the efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. J Trauma Stress. 1998 Jan;11(1):25-44. doi: 10.1023/A:1024400931106. PMID: 9479674.

  • PTSD in children quickly and effectively treatable within hours

  • EMDR Therapy for Anxiety, Panic, PTSD and Trauma

  • Adapting EMDR for Treating Complex PTSD Symptoms

  • Using EMDR to Find Your ‘Safe Place’ in Trauma Recovery

  • SAFE PLACE RESOURCE & ADAPTATIONS

  • EMDR Therapy: Breaking Down the Barriers

  • EMDR International Association

  • American Psychological Association

  • Here's What You Need To Know Before Your First EMDR Therapy Session

Hello! Did you find this information useful?

Please consider supporting PTSD UK with a donation to enable us to provide more information & resources to help us to support everyone affected by PTSD, no matter the trauma that caused it

PTSD UK Blog

You’ll find up-to-date news, research and information here along with some great tips to ease your PTSD in our blog.

The Window of Tolerance and PTSD

The Window of Tolerance and PTSD Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can make you feel very helpless. At times you can feel you have no control of your emotions, thoughts, feelings and actions – however understanding more about how and

Read More »

Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Ranya

Case Study: EMDR Treatment – Ranya Ranya* grew up in a violent and abusive household which led to her developing PTSD. In this case study, she tells us how, despite her initial worries, EMDR has changed outlook her outlook on

Read More »

How running can help people with PTSD

How running can help people with PTSD The physical and mental benefits of everything from gentle jogging to serious running are well known and exercise (particularly running) can help reduce the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (both PTSD and

Read More »

Case Study: CPAP Treatment – David

Case Study: CPAP Treatment – David David’s PTSD symptoms after a helicopter crash were affecting every moment of his life until he came across CPAP therapy for Sleep Apnoea. Here, he shares his story about his life after finding the

Read More »

Dealing with PTSD over the holidays

Dealing with PTSD over the holidays Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can cause a whole host of symptoms, which can affect every area of your life, and when this is paired with ‘expectations’ of how you should feel, it can become

Read More »

My PTSD ‘toolbox’

My PTSD ‘toolbox’ During her life, Imogen Cauthery has experienced a number of traumas and resulting PTSD. Over time, despite some co-morbid conditions such as epilepsy and bulimia, Imogen has developed a ‘PTSD toolbox’ – a variety of therapies and

Read More »

Treatments for PTSD

It is possible for PTSD to be successfully treated many years after the traumatic event occurred, which means it is never too late to seek help. For some, the first step may be watchful waiting, then exploring therapeutic options such as individual or group therapy – but the main treatment options in the UK are psychological treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprogramming (EMDR) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Traumatic events can be very difficult to come to terms with, but confronting and understanding your feelings and seeking professional help is often the only way of effectively treating PTSD. You can find out more in the links below, or here.