At a training last weekend I learned about some therapy techniques that are especially useful for people who have recently experienced a traumatic event or are experiencing ongoing trauma. Many trauma therapies are directed at past trauma, i.e., events that have occurred at least three months ago and have been followed by a period of safety. So many traumatic events in our world don’t fit this requirement, however, including everything from any recent trauma to ongoing pandemic-related experiences, family violence/conflict situations, extended medical treatments, and systemic oppression on the basis of race, gender or sexual orientation.
The good news is that there are forms of EMDR therapy specifically designed to address recent trauma and ongoing adverse experiences. Like other types of EMDR therapy, these techniques calm nervous system reactions to stressful memories. The therapies focus on the disturbing body (somatic, physiological) sensations connected with intense emotions and intrusive memories related to what happened. They also help people cope with symptoms such as anticipatory stress, i.e., the common fear that an ongoing traumatic situation may get even worse in the future. I felt especially hopeful to learn that this type of EMDR is also aimed at prevention: keeping recent disturbing events from becoming the types of intrusive memories that lead to PTSD and related symptoms of depression and anxiety.