Recovery from Trauma

Recovery from Trauma

Recovery from Trauma



      How does it work?

      Thought Field
Therapy (TFT)

      Research on TFT

      Talking Therapy



When a person goes through any kind of trauma, he or she is often able to heal in time. But, if the trauma is too much for the mind to handle, help may be needed to get past it. If a person develops symptoms such as recurrent nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories, anxiety, fear, depression, or panic attacks, for example, they may fit the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, which is a diagnosis listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, used by mental health professionals today.

One does not have to have PTSD to benefit from talking to someone about an upsetting event. However, if one develops severe symptoms, counseling/psychotherapy is certainly recommended.


One particular treatment that has shown tremendous success in treating trauma is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, for short. EMDR involves focusing on the traumatic event while doing a series of eye movements, although tapping and sounds can also be used. EMDR was discovered by Dr. Francene Shapiro in the late 1980’s, and the first training in EMDR was given in 1990. Two decades of clinical research has borne out its effectiveness.

EMDR has been used for combat veterans, crime victims, police officers, victims of abuse & assault, and accident victims. It has been used on train engineers who were traumatized when their trains accidently hit someone. EMDR works whether  the trauma was recent, or a very long time ago, and whether it is large or small. Children respond very well to EMDR.

Study after study has shown the effectiveness of EMDR. In one controlled study, combat veterans no longer met the criteria for PTSD after 12 sessions. Controlled studies of civilian trauma victims showed that, after three sessions, they no longer met the criteria for PTSD. A 1997 study showed that, after 3 EMDR sessions, rape victims no longer fit the criteria for PTSD.

Dr. Steven Silver, a veteran himself and an EMDR trainer, has been using EMDR to help veterans for years, and wrote about it in his book, Light in the Heart of DarknessAn excellent book for the general public to show clearly what EMDR is and how it works is Emotional Healing at Warp Speed by Dr. David Grand, who has also used EMDR to enhance creativity.

In 1999, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designated EMDR as effective for treatment for PTSD. The U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense placed EMDR in the “A” category: “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma. In 1993, Dr. Francine Shapiro was awarded the Distinguished Scientific Achievement in Psychology Award by the California Psychological Association.

Among other things, Dr. Shapiro is the president of EMDR-HAP, the EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program, where professionals go all over the world to help the victims of trauma with EMDR. This generous world-wide treatment of victims of trauma has resulted in international recognition for the process of EMDR. The Israeli National Council for mental health has accepted EMDR as one of three treatments of choice to treat trauma victims. The Critical Resources Efficiency Support Team of Northern Ireland has recognized EMDR as one of two desirable treatments for the victims of trauma.  And, yes, EMDR practitioners volunteered their time at the World Trade Center site during the 9-1-1 tragedy, and to the Oklahoma City bombing site, to help the victims and the rescuers there to overcome the trauma of their experiences.

How Does It Work?

But how can a process of moving one’s eyes back and forth possibly have such amazing results? Brain research done in recent decades has given us some clues. Dr. Peter Levine at UCLA took PET scans of the brains of patients before and after treatment with EMDR, and found significant differences: areas of overactivity, or “hot spots” disappeared, along with the patient’s symptoms. These PET scan results have been replicated elsewhere.

Neuroimaging has shown that EMDR activates the frontal lobes of the brain, which are needed for higher-order thinking. Two other specific areas stimulated by EMDR are the thalamus and the anterior cingulate gyrus. Interestingly, these particular areas had been found to be less active in people with PTSD.

It is as if, due to the trauma, the brain becomes immobilized, and cannot process the experience. Under bilateral stimulation, along with the support of a trained therapist, the brain is able to mobilize itself into a healing process. We are still learning about how this works, and we will continue to learn about the brain for many years to come.

For as effective as it is, EMDR is not as well known as it could be. Its detractors are often people who do not understand how it works, and therefore cannot accept the evidence in its favor. This often happens when a new idea or technique comes along that does not fit the going paradigm. However, the evidence for EMDR’s effectiveness is overwhelming, and we have much knowledge now about how it works.

We have known for a long time that the brain changes itself with every activity, every memory, and with every new learning. It has now been learned that a great deal of the changes that occur in the brain occur during dreaming, and most dreaming occurs during REM sleep (Doidge). These changes occurred in the hippocampus, which is a central structure for forming and processing memories.

Many people know that REM means Rapid Eye Movement, which has long been known to occur during dreaming. The connection between the REM sleep and structural changes in the brain, makes a clear and logical connection between EMDR’s eye movements and the beneficial processing of traumatic memories.

To find a trained EMDR therapist, go to or

Recovery from Trauma







Thought Field Therapy: TFT

Another very innovative technique, unlike any used in psychology before, is called Thought Field Therapy. It was originated by Dr. Roger Callahan, a psychologist, who coined the term Thought Field Therapy, or the “tapping cure,” because it involved tapping acupuncture points on the body to release trauma and emotional pain.

Some pioneering mental health professionals  have begun developing and using Dr. Callahan’s thought field therapy technique, with surprising and impressive results.

Licensed clinicians Victoria Britt, LCSW, John Diepold, Jr., Ph.D, and Sheila Bender, Ph.D. co-authored a book called Evolving Thought Field Therapy: The Clinician’s Handbook of diagnosis, treatment and theory. This book is very technical and meant for professionals. However, in 2007, Dr. Bender authored a book for the layperson, called The Energy of Belief: Psychology’s Power Tools to Focus Attention and Release Blocking Beliefs, to introduce TFT to the public.

As developed by Britt, Diepold and Bender, TFT involves TAB – touching and breathing – on these same acupuncture points in specific sequences. The belief is that stress and emotional pain or trauma are stored in the body. Stimulating these points somehow seems to release the trauma – just as acupuncture can be used to relieve many kinds of physical problems. (Acupuncturists are health professionals who are licensed by the state, as any other professional would be).

One can easily imagine how much resistance these innovators receive, when introducing such a novel approach to the mental health field. Professionals tend to be conservative and cautious about new techniques and theories, perhaps because they feel a strong sense of responsibility to protect the public from anything that might be frivolous or harmful. A great deal of research is needed before a new idea is considered by most professionals and, even then, it may be years before a new idea achieves any level of acceptance.

Research on TFT

It is interesting to learn that TFT has been used all around the world. Research studies can be found on at least two websites: and The latter site reports on positive results using TFT with: middle school students who used it to reduce angry feelings and work on relationships; reducing fear of needles and fear of public speaking; and marked improvement in 103 of 105 survivors of trauma in Kosovo. reports a case where 50 orphaned teens who had experienced the Rawandan genocide 12 years earlier, significantly decreased their PTSD symptoms; and these improvements were still holding five months later. And these are only a few examples.

These are very promising results indeed, and research will continue on this interesting work.

 “Talking” Therapy

Traditional talking therapy, such as psychodynamic or cognitive-behavioral therapy can also be helpful in dealing with a variety of traumas and emotions stemming from them. These therapies have already been presented in the section on Counseling/Psychotherapy.

The important thing to know is that there is plenty of help available for any problem, and that you have your choice of what you think will work best for you. It is just a question of seeking it out, which is very doable with the power of the internet. Most mental health professionals will be more than happy to help the type of therapy or therapist that is sought by any individual.









American Psychiatric Association: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Association, 1994.

Bender, Sheila S. and Sise, Mary T.The Energy of Belief: Psychology’s Power Tools to Focus Attention and Release Blocking Beliefs (2007) Fulton, CA: The Energy Psychology Press.

Bergan, Uri, The Neurobiology of EMDR, presented at the EMDR International Association Conference, 2003.

Britt, Victoria, Diepold, John, and Bender, Sheila, Evolving Thought Field Therapy: The Clinician’s Handbook of diagnosis, treatment and theory (2004) New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

Callahan, Roger & Trube, Richard, Tapping the Healer Within: Using Thought Field Therapy to Instantly Conquer Your Anxieties and Emotional Distress (2001) Chicago, IL: Contemporary Books, NTC Contemporary Publishing Group, Inc.

Doidge, Norman, The Brain That Changes Itself (2007)  New York, New York: Penguin Books.

Grand, David, Emotional Healing at Warp Speed: The Power of EMDR (2003) New York, New York: Present Tents Publishing.

Grant, Mark, Pain Control with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, Revised Edition 2001, first published 1998 EMDR-HAP.

Lanius, Ruth A., Neuroimaging and the Traumatized Brain, presented at the EMDR Association Conference, 2001, Canada.

Levine, Peter, The Body Bears the Burden: Somatic Expressions of Traumatic Stress, presented at the EMDR International Association conference, 2003.

Shapiro, Francine, “Adaptive Information Processing and Case Conceptualization,” Session 220. 2003 EMDRIA conference, Volume 1 of 2, by

Shapiro, Francine, EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress and Trauma (1997) New York, New York: Basic Books.

Silver, Steve, Ph.D and Rogers, Susan, PhD, Light in the Heart of Darkness: EMDR and the Treatment of War and Terrorism Survivors (2001) New York, New York: Norton Professional Books.