Trauma Therapy/EMDR

Counseling Lancaster, PAThere are a few different approaches to helping individuals experiencing the symptoms of trauma. We will discuss the types of therapy we offer at our practice: EMDR and TF-CBT.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a unique experiential form of therapy that focuses on diminishing the stressful thoughts and feelings associated with trauma, especially those that have affected our view of ourselves. It is different than typical talk therapy, because it gives more attention to the various ways memories are stored in the brain rather than prioritizing the story or verbal memory. While EMDR is best known for treating trauma like in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), EMDR can also be used to treat Anxiety, Depression, chronic pain, and other adverse life events.

Key Ideas
  • Trauma can include major events that are often life threatening, produce intense fear, or result in significant loss. Trauma can also include more subtle experiences that negatively affect the way we view ourselves, others, and the world. EMDR can address both categories that negatively impact our lives.
  • Memories are stored in the brain as associated networks. Our memories can be stored with thoughts, feelings, images, and body sensations. These memories form the foundation for the ways we view ourselves, others, and the world. They strongly influence our behaviors both positive and negative.
  • Our brains are designed to heal after trauma, similar to how our body is designed to heal after physical injury. When we experience something traumatic, our brain may struggle to process in helpful ways. This makes it more likely that we will experience unwanted symptoms (i.e. nightmares, flashbacks, continued high emotional distress, unnecessarily negative views of ourselves, over-estimating danger, etc).
  • EMDR can help process disturbing events that continue to feel unresolved in the present.
Basic Explanation of EMDR: Eye movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
One of the things that makes EMDR different than talk therapy is the use of bilateral stimulation while processing. It helps the whole brain focus on processing experiences in a way that may not have been possible when the original situation felt intense. This used to mean Eye Movements, but has evolved; I use a “tapper.” Desensitization refers to decreasing the distress experienced once a trauma is over. {EMDR does not reduce the grief associated with traumas when something or someone significant was lost}. The Reprocessing during EMDR happens in your brain and body rather than through conversation like in talk-therapies.
“When a trauma occurs, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, and feelings. The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow the brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep- the eye movements may help to process the unconscious material. It is important to remember that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and that you are the one in control.” –Francine Shapiro, developer of EMDR
More Information
EMDR is approved by the American Psychiatric Association, International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense. You can read more on the EMDR International Association website HERE.


TF-CBT (Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is an evidence-based treatment designed to help children, adolescents, and their parents overcome the impact of traumatic events. Examples of trauma could include, but are not limited to, death of a loved one, being a victim of physical, sexual, or emotional violence, witnessing domestic violence, accidents, and natural disaster.

Children and teens who are survivors of trauma might be experiencing shock, shame, anger, anxiety, depression, lack of control, panic, and fear, even long after the trauma has ended. Some children may develop symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) such as intrusive memories, hyperarousal, avoidance of things that remind them of the trauma, and maladaptive views of self, others, the world and the future.

TF-CBT helps reduce these distressing feelings and symptoms, ultimately reinstating a sense of control and empowerment. The therapist, client, and parent will work collaboratively to learn about their trauma, develop a toolbox of coping skills to manage traumatic stress reactions, learn how to reframe past events, challenge distressing thoughts and beliefs in a more positive, helpful way, process the trauma in creative ways that appeal to the strengths of the client, and integrate the trauma in a positive way in which the child can feel a renewed sense of empowerment and a hopeful future.

TF-CBT is a structured, short-term treatment that lasts roughly between 12-25 sessions. This includes individual sessions for the child or teen, individual sessions for the parents, and conjoint sessions between parent and child or adolescent.