Counseling psychologist Jay Brandenburg-Nau uses a variety of approaches and therapies to ensure his clients find lasting peace and freedom from mental obstacles. Below, he explains how using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an effective way to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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In order to meet clients’ diverse needs, Jay Brandenburg-Nau believes in using a range of counseling tools that target root problems and alleviate mental burdens. Not every client is the same, and not every approach will be as effective in practice for some as it is for others.
“This is why counseling psychologists have to learn a range of therapy styles,” says Jay Brandenburg-Nau. “There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to counseling, and every single client will require a tailored approach to uncovering core obstacles and overcoming them.”
In the past, he’s used resources such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and a range of group and family therapies to achieve this. To help people who have suffered trauma, Jay Brandenburg-Nau regularly relies on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
In EDMR, counselors like Jay Brandenburg-Nau help relieve traumatic or triggering experiences for patients by using an interactive technique to reprogram the way their minds habitually respond. The person leading the therapy will expose the patient to images that trigger trauma in small doses while directing their eye movement. It’s effective in that it helps patients feel less emotional connection when recalling distressing events by diverting their attention and reprograming their thinking process related to them. This, in turn, exposes patients to the memory or idea that is affecting their minds and teaches them to recognize the image without having a strong psychological response. With time, this can gradually lessen the impact of the thoughts or memories.
First, therapists and counselors like Jay Brandenburg-Nau will review each patients’ history to determine which part of the 8-step treatment process will work best to start with. This typically includes talking about their memories of trauma and identifying potential traumatic memories that will help to specifically treat it. They will look for any associated components (like physical sensations that are stimulated when patients concentrate on the event) for each target memory and use them in sessions.
During EDMR therapy sessions, counselors will ask patients to focus on a negative thought, memory, or image that is associated with their trauma. At the same time, they will have patients perform specific eye movements, or what is called bilateral stimulation that may also include associated movements like taps or blinks.
Following the bilateral stimulation, therapists encourage patients to empty their minds and notice the thoughts and feelings popping up. After identifying these thoughts, therapists may ask patients to refocus on the traumatic memory or move on to another. With time, the patient becomes less prone to emotional disturbances.
“However, if patients become distressed during therapy, I make sure to help them return calmly to the present before continuing,” says Jay Brandenburg-Nau. “And with time, their traumatic thoughts and memories begin to fade into something more peaceful and manageable.”