NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

EMDR: Resolving Childhood Trauma to Lead a More Fulfilling Life as an Adult

While most people understand that childhood trauma, including emotional neglect, abuse and unmet childhood emotional needs, can create problems for them as adults, many people who had childhood trauma feel powerless to stop these problems from repeating in their adult lives.

Resolving Childhood Trauma to Have Healthier Adult Relationships

Current Emotional Problems as an Adult Are Often Rooted in Childhood Trauma
Many people who live their lives from one crisis to the next are so immersed in their day-to-day problems that it's hard for them to see that the core of many of their current problems are rooted in the past.

Of course, this is understandable because it's often very hard, when you're immersed in a crisis, to look beyond the current problem to gain perspective.

Current Emotional Problems Are Often Rooted in Childhood Trauma

But for many people, who are able to develop a perspective about how their childhood trauma affects them now, getting psychological help with EMDR therapy, a mind-body oriented form of psychotherapy, has been very helpful.

Let's take a look at a vignette, which is a composite of many cases with all identifying information changed to protect confidentiality:

When Ina, a woman in her mid-30s, came to therapy, she was feeling hopeless about her life.

In the past, she had been through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and she learned important coping skills and learned a lot about how her thoughts affected her emotionally.

But even though she had gained some insight into her problems, she continued to live her life from one crisis to the next and having insight didn't change this, much to her frustration.

The current crisis was that, even though she was established in her profession and she earned a good income, she was constantly on edge financially.  She was behind in her mortgage and owed thousands in credit card expenses.

On the surface, Ina's problems didn't add up.  It wasn't that she didn't make enough money to pay her bills.

It was only after we explored her dynamics in her current relationship that the underlying link to her traumatic childhood became obvious.

Ina's Current Problems Were Rooted in Childhood Trauma

Ina's pattern in relationships, which she acknowledged, was to choose men that she had to "rescue."  Often, her boyfriends were unemployed and unwilling to work.

Usually, her relationships would begin with her boyfriend coming across like a loving, emotionally supportive man.

This is what usually drew Ina to each of them because she was a lonely child for most of her childhood and continued to feel lonely through much of her adult life when she wasn't in a relationship.  So, having someone that was loving and affectionate was very appealing to Ina, as it would be to most people.

But within a short while, inevitably, things would turn around:  The man who seemed so caring and affectionate would turn out to be someone who was emotionally and financially dependent upon Ina.

The pattern was usually the same:  After a couple of months, her boyfriend's underlying emotional problems would surface and Ina would feel obligated to do anything possible to "rescue" her current boyfriend.

Within a short time, Ina was emotionally, physically and financially drained by her current relationship.  She was also helping her boyfriend to the point where she was hurting herself financially.  But she was unable to extricate herself, and she felt like she was drowning emotionally.

Ina's current relationship fit the pattern but, in many ways, it was worse:  She noticed lately that a couple of her expensive pieces of jewelry were missing.

As hard as it was for her to think about it, she knew that her boyfriend stole them.  He was the only one who was in her apartment during the last month or so when she last saw the jewelry.

This was a terrible dilemma for Ina:  On the one hand, she was angry and hurt that her boyfriend took the jewelry, which was given to her by her grandmother, who died several years ago.

But, on the other hand, Ina felt too "guilty" to confront him about it.  She knew that her boyfriend, who refused to work, probably pawned her jewelry.  She also suspected that he might have a drug problem that he was hiding from her.

As we discussed this theft, Ina made a lot of excuses for her boyfriend:  He had a difficult childhood, no one ever loved him, and he just couldn't get a break in life.  She felt she couldn't be another person who hurt him by confronting him about the theft.

Logically, Ina knew that she was making up excuses--she realized that if a close friend told her this story, she could see that her friend's boyfriend was taking advantage of her.

But, despite seeing this and knowing logically from her prior CBT therapy that her thinking was distorted, on an emotional level, her feelings about her boyfriend made sense to her.  It was a very painful dilemma of her, and she wondered if she would ever be able to overcome these problems.

EMDR Is Often An Effective Therapy to Resolve Trauma
It has been my experience as a therapist, who is trained in psychodynamic and CBT therapy, that often when childhood trauma is at the root of current problems, clients who can see their problems are unable to make the necessary changes to resolve the type of problems described in the scenario above.

EMDR Is An Effective Therapy to Resolve Trauma

It's not that CBT and psychodynamic therapy don't ever work for trauma.  Both forms of therapy are often helpful.

But for many clients, who have insight into the underlying issues and the distortions in their thinking, their insight and understanding alone don't result in their being able to make changes so they can stop cycle of their problems.

In my article, The Mind-Body Connection: EMDR Therapy Can Help Resolve Childhood Trauma That Affects You as an Adult, I explain how Ina's childhood continued to affect her in her adult relationships and how EMDR therapy, a therapy that takes into account the mind-body connection, is often more effective in resolving emotional trauma.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you feel that your current problems are related to unresolved childhood trauma, you can find a list of EMDR licensed psychotherapists in the US and internationally on the EMDR professional website:

Getting Help: EMDR Helps Resolve Emotional Trauma

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.