Many people experience trauma in their lives, and strong reactions to trauma can result in post-traumatic reactions (such as PTSD). Trauma can stem from witnessing atrocities, such as war, and also from exposure to sexual abuse, brutality, or physical or emotional abuse in family settings and other relationships. Trauma is not only the result of what happened to us, but also of how we make sense of what happened to us and the subsequent negative emotions that can arise. These negative emotions can seep into our lives in many ways: we might withdraw from relationships, eat in ways that are harmful, somaticize our internal concerns, or suffer from depression, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and/or low self-worth.
What can be especially difficult about experiencing trauma is the impact it can have on a person’s life months and years afterward; for some, significant problems can arise that interfere with everyday life. Many people don’t realize that negative emotions, problems in relationships, and low self-esteem are often directly related to previous traumatic experiences. When people experience these negative symptoms, they try to push away the memories or fight against their feelings; yet paradoxically, it’s this very avoidance that sustains and worsens problems, because these memories and feelings creep into daily activities, daydreams, thoughts, and nightmares. The longer and harder people ignore the lingering effects of a traumatic experience, the longer these memories will control and impact their lives in increasingly negative ways.
Dr. Samantha Gaies, Dr. Kimberly Fishbach, Dr. Meghan Downey, and Dr. Rebecca Hoffenberg have drawn from their own advanced, researched-based training in trauma to create a unique method of treating trauma. By combining the latest hypnotic techniques, aspects of exposure therapy, and mindfulness tools to address clients’ past experiences, they help clients better understand the negative feedback loop between the biological changes which began after the trauma and their current emotional state and responses. Through integrative techniques and hypnosis, our therapists help clients alleviate anxiety, stay more present, reduce flashbacks and nightmares, and find ways to once again feel like the person they were before the trauma.
Research shows that facing the memories of a traumatic event in a safe and controlled therapeutic environment can drastically reduce negative symptoms and allow individuals to feel like themselves again and reclaim their lives. Our therapists have years of experience in both private and hospital settings, and they have worked with clients who have experienced trauma as a result of sexual harassment and assault, physical and sexual abuse in relationships, sexual and emotional trauma in childhood, and other life-threatening accidents and events. We use the most advanced techniques for treating trauma, such as Prolonged Exposure, Cognitive Processing Therapy, and EMDR, to help relieve clients’ trauma-related symptoms and allow them to feel whole again.
Our therapists use a combination of hypnosis, mindfulness, and exposure therapy techniques to help clients suffering from psychological trauma caused by any kind of traumatic or distressing event. Our approach focuses on helping clients reduce the impact and symptoms associated with trauma. We incorporate techniques that help clients gently confront and work through difficult memories and experiences, while also learning to live more fully in the present moment in order to regain control over their lives. This approach uses hypnosis to help clients explore their unconscious to finally understand the relationship between their past trauma and current psychological distress, which ultimately allows them to free themselves from these painful memories. Unlike portrayals in popular media, hypnosis is not used to re-experience memories; instead, the calming properties of hypnosis helps clients diminish the anxiety associated with trauma while using therapy to move forward with their lives.
In addition to our integrative approach to treatment trauma, Dr. Rebecca Hoffenberg is also our expert in using Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy to help people overcome trauma and gain and new found sense of wellbeing. To do this, she combines her expertise in EMDR, her education in Complex Trauma/Developmental Trauma, and her training in hypnosis to assist clients with resolving distressing life experiences and more intractable concerns.
EMDR is an evidence-based therapy for PTSD, and it can also be beneficial for other clinical issues, such as anxiety, depression, and relationship difficulties. EMDR is effective in addressing symptoms that stem from maladaptively stored and unprocessed information. Because of the way these memories are encoded, they are not responsive to new and more helpful information. Many times with trauma, we experience past traumatic events as if they were current “breaking news. By using EMDR, clients learn that the memory can lose its strong effect and no longer have a strong impact on the person's present life.
More specifically, Dr. Hoffenberg works with her patients by exploring their goals and developing a comprehensive plan for how she will address those goals. This typically involves exploring earlier life events, as well as discussing childhood and relational history as they relate to the most salient concerns. Once Dr. Hoffenberg creates a framework with her patients, she spends time working on various ways to help foster change, which will include developing coping skills to help manage anxiety and difficult emotions throughout the course of therapy and beyond. Once these foundational skills are in place, Dr. Hoffenberg begins focusing on the traumatic event or experience that initially brought a patient to therapy. In order to assist patients and make the process more effective, EMDR uses dual stimulation (i.e., eye movements, tapping) to help individuals remain in the present moment and connected to Dr. Hoffenberg as the traumatic material is processed.
EMDR helps to release emotions that are stuck around the memory in order to make room for healthier processing. Because EMDR targets "touchstone" memories, it is not uncommon for difficult emotions to come up during processing. Working in partnership with Dr. Hoffenberg, our clients are first assessed for the appropriateness of this modality. Once it has been determined that EMDR will be a good fit, Dr. Hoffenberg helps clients become prepared and equipped to deal with whatever might arise so that they remain comfortably in control of how therapy proceeds.
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