Complex Childhood Trauma
John is a 35-year-old man who experienced complex childhood trauma and has struggled with
anxiety, depression, and intrusive memories related to the trauma for many years. John was
referred to therapy to receive Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
John’s therapy sessions began with a thorough history-taking process, where the therapist gathered
information about John’s trauma history and current symptoms. John reported experiencing severe
anxiety, intrusive memories, and nightmares related to the trauma he experienced as a child.
At the heart of John’s experience was the neglect and abuse he had suffered at the hands of his
mother, which continues to cause him significant distress today. During EMDR therapy John was
guided through bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, while focusing on the most traumatic
memory involving the relationship with his mother. As John focused on this traumatic memory, he
reported feeling a range of emotions, including fear, anger, and sadness.
With the help of the therapist, John was able to process these emotions and gradually reduce the
level of distress associated with this memory. The therapist then helped John strengthen positive
beliefs about himself, which for John meant being lovable and feeling accepted.
In subsequent therapy sessions, John’s distress levels related to the target traumatic memory
continued to decrease. He reported feeling more in control of his emotions and less burdened by the
memories of his trauma.
New behavioural patterns were practiced through imaginal rehearsal. Once the pathways had been
established in session, John was able to visit his siblings in the presence of his mother at a birthday
party without becoming triggered and retraumatised. This is something that John had wanted to do,
but never thought was possible. something that John had long wanted to do but not though possible
for many years.
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