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  • Writer's picturetraceymbrittain

How EMDR Therapy Can Help Couples Overcome Adversity

Updated: Jul 24, 2023


A King's College London study found that 31% of young adults experienced trauma before turning 18. It is common for individuals to carry the adverse effects of trauma into adulthood. Of course, many don't realise how their pain affects different aspects of their lives.


Often trauma affects how one behaves in an intimate relationship. A partnership may suffer from communication strains, eroded trust, and emotional disconnect. The familiar saying of "He never admits he is wrong" is often is a sign of trauma.


In EMDR couples therapy, partners can process their emotions, heal, and remove the trauma. We will explore EMDR for couples to provide healthy and relationship guidance.


EMDR Therapy: What Is It?


The role of EMDR therapy is to help individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences. A client will use bilateral stimulation to help them examine a traumatic experience.


Bilateral stimulation involves rhythmic exercises such as tapping or eye movements. It allows thoughts, emotions, and beliefs to desensitize the emotional intensity of memory.


Dr. Francine Shapiro developed the therapy in the late 1980s based on the theory that trauma can get "stuck" in the brain. When the thoughts become "stuck," they'll start disturbing a person's emotions and behaviours.


Anxiety, depression, flashbacks, nightmares, and other symptoms may occur due to these disturbances. The goal of EMDR counselling is to reduce traumatic symptoms. A therapist will do this by promoting adaptive processing and integration.


The Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy


The therapy involves a structured eight-phase protocol integrating elements from different psychotherapeutic approaches. The approaches include cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and bilateral stimulation techniques. Here is a brief overview of the eight phases:


History Taking

The therapist gathers information about the client's life, current symptoms, and traumatic events. This phase establishes a foundation for treatment planning.


Preparation

Therapists help clients develop coping skills and relaxation skills. The techniques teach them to cope with emotional distress.


It also allows one to increase their feeling of safety. Clients learn to self-soothe and regulate their emotions during the therapy sessions.


Assessment

The therapist and client identify the specific memories of the traumatic events. These events will be the focus during treatment. Clients explore the emotions, sensations, and negative beliefs related to the targeted memory.


Desensitisation

The client focuses on the targeted memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation. It will include actions such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones. The dual attention reduces emotional intensity and distress associated with traumatic memory.


Installation

Positive beliefs and self-affirmations are "installed" into the client's cognitive system. These positive cognitions replace negative thoughts with traumatic memory. In return, it will foster resilience and adaptive processing.


Body Scan

A body scan directs attention to any physical sensations associated with the memory. This phase helps to further process and release any lingering aspects of the trauma.


Closure

At the end of each session, the therapist ensures that the client feels grounded. Also, the therapist will give clients new strategies. The homework is to help stabilize their emotions if unfinished processing remains.


Reevaluation

The therapist and client review the progress made. Then they reevaluate the target memories at the beginning of subsequent sessions. This phase ensures that all relevant parts of the trauma are adequately processed.


EMDR therapy aims to help the client reprocess and integrate traumatic experiences. This allows for the resolution of distressing symptoms and the promotion of mental healing and well-being.


How Does Trauma Affect a Relationship?


Trauma can have a profound impact on relationships. For example, they may have difficulty trusting others or become hypervigilant. This lack of trust leads to going in circles with the same arguments digging up the past.


In addition, they may have trouble regulating their emotions. These challenges can make it difficult to maintain healthy relationships. Do arguments go from a 3 to 20 very quickly. Very likely trauma is hiding somewhere within you.


Trauma can lead to changes in personality and behaviour. People who have experienced trauma may be more withdrawn, angry, or avoidant. These changes make it difficult for partners to understand and support each other.


Patient and understanding are critical when dating someone who has experienced trauma. It is also important to seek professional help if you are struggling to cope with the effects of trauma.


Signs It's Time to Seek Couples Counselling


A recent survey found that 30,000 couples in the UK seek couples counselling to fix their marriage troubles. The study also provides signs when couples may need to seek counselling. Some of these signs include:

  • Frequent arguments or disagreements

  • A lack of communication

  • Feeling disconnected from your partner

  • Feeling like you are no longer on the same page

  • Having different values or goals

  • Feeling like you are unhappy in your relationship

  • Feeling like you are stuck in a rut

  • Exsessive reactions like throwing or hitting people

  • Having thoughts of leaving your relationship

If you are experiencing any of these signs, take the time to talk to your partner about your concerns. It's best to seek help from a couples counsellor when you're struggling to resolve your issues.


Private counselling can provide a safe space for you and your partner to discuss your issues. Partners are also able to learn how to communicate more effectively.


A counsellor can help you identify the root of your problems. They can also develop strategies for resolving them.


It is vital to find someone with experience in working with couples. Also, ensure you feel comfortable with the counsellor and have a good rapport with them.


Couples counselling can be a very effective way to improve your bond. If you are struggling in your relationship, seeking help before it is too late is crucial.


Can Trauma Therapy Save My Marriage?


EMDR therapy can be a valuable tool for couples facing marriage challenges and seeking to improve their relationship. While EMDR is typically known as individual therapy, it can be adapted for couples. Here are some ways in which EMDR therapy can help couples save their marriage:


Healing from Trauma

If one or both partners have experienced past traumas, EMDR therapy can help them process and heal from these wounds. Traumatic experiences can contribute to emotional distress, communication difficulties, and relationship conflicts. The therapy can reduce the negative impact on the couple's dynamic and create space for healthier interactions.


Resolving Relationship Traumas

Couples often face significant relationship traumas such as infidelity, betrayal, or loss. These experiences can deeply impact trust and emotional safety.


EMDR therapy can help couples process and heal from these relationship traumas. The healing allows couples to forgive, rebuild trust, and create a stronger foundation for the marriage.


Enhancing Emotional Connection

The therapy helps couples explore and process their underlying emotions. This allows them to work out their challenges in a healthy way. Partners are able to gain a deeper understanding and empathy through bilateral stimulation.


Changing Negative Beliefs

Negative beliefs about oneself or one's partner can create barriers to a satisfying and fulfilling marriage. EMDR therapy can target these negative beliefs. It also help couples reprocess them into more positive thoughts.


This can lead to improved self-esteem and improved perceptions of the partner. As a result, partners can create a more positive and nurturing relationship.


Strengthening Attachment

EMDR therapy can address attachment issues within the couple. With therapy, couples can target and reprocess early attachment wounds. Couples can create a more secure and fulfilling attachment bond.


In return, their emotional intimacy increase with a sense of safety. A healthy attachment creates a stronger foundation for the marriage.


What if Counselling Doesn't Fix My Marriage?


The success of EMDR therapy depends on both partners' willingness and active participation. One partner may believe that the answer is by attending counselling.

However, the other partner may take it as a joke. If both partners are not participating, then the success of the therapy will be limited.


Even if both partners decide to call it quits, there are still benefits to attending therapy. For example, you may discover a newfound strength you didn't know you process.


Also, try not to go into therapy believing the therapist can fix everything. The therapist's role is to ease the process and guide the couple through the sessions. The action and progress will come down to the couple.


EMDR therapy can provide couples with a safe and structured space. This allows them to explore their challenges and heal from past wounds. By the end, couples work towards building a healthier and more fulfilling marriage.


Contact Tracey Brittain for EMDR Couples Therapy


You may hesitate to try EMDR therapy if this is your first time hearing about it. Most people are afraid to try any type of therapy because of the fear of judgment.


However, as a licensed therapist in Surrey, England, I provide a safe space to help couples. This allows couples to overcome traumas and move forward positively in their relationships. Using EMDR couples therapy, you'll discover the blocks hindering you from creating a loving relationship. EMDR has now been adopted by the World Health Organisation and the NHS as the goto process to removing trauma.


Don't allow your trauma to keep you from healing and having positive love in your life. Book your 20-minute free call if you're ready to create a new life with your partner!

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