Resources- Therapies to Heal

Therapies and Misc Healing:

Therapy was the first modality that I really undertook to begin healing. Therapy can be provided by many professionals in society, including psychologists, social workers, and counselors. Different degrees can allow individuals to have the training to deploy therapy—Masters (in clinical psychology, social work, counseling etc.), PhDs in Psychology, PsyDs. I have personally seen therapists with various types of degrees (different types of Masters, PhD etc.) and have truly found that the degree does not indicate how much the therapist knows, the modalities they are truly familiar with, and how they are as a therapist. Some therapists will list many modalities on PsychologyToday but really only practice one (for example, say they are familiar with various modalities and combine it into one type of therapy, a talk therapy, which really resembles more of CBT as some types of therapies are impossible to combine completely, such as a strict EMDR protocol and CBT) while others will truly be well versed and have learned a lot of certain types of therapies and offer different ones depending on the situation.

I tried CBT a long time ago, which did not go well, but EMDR and IFS became key to my healing. I don’t see therapy and other types of healing such as yoga, acupuncture, massages as distinct or binary, as healing meaning one or the other. I think that society today focuses on therapy a lot and that it can indeed be a beautiful tool to heal. For example, the biggest issue I faced in my healing was a feeling of self-worth, that my needs weren’t fair or worthy. I still struggle with this. I am not sure if this is the root of many peoples’ suffering. But many people do suffer from this, at varying levels, even renowned psychologist and “recovering people-pleaser” Adam Grant and artist Cat Burns.

For me, therapy was an amazing tool towards regaining that sense of self-worth. But so was journaling. So was yoga. And the science on those and their benefits on health is becoming clearer and clearer as well, as is clear from books like The Body Keeps the Score and other books listed on the Resources-Books page.

Here I describe some of the therapies I am familiar ones, that I have found to be the best for trauma personally. There may also be others out there that I have failed to mention, either because I didn’t know about them and their efficacy, or because they weren’t as successful for me.
  • CBT          
    CBT, standing for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is a very common type of therapy used for a variety of conditions, not just trauma. It is used towards conditions like OCD, General Anxiety Disorder etc. It combines behavioral and talk therapy by focusing on how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors work together and involves reframing our thoughts.

    I have personally undergone very intense CBT—and it was the worst experience of my life. Now, I actually use some of the principles that CBT follows—awareness of thoughts, reframing them, analyzing them, analyzing my beliefs etc.—very effectively. This is why I say that all these tools are not necessarily right or wrong—they could be effective for someone else and not for another person. They could be effective for someone at some point in their life and then detrimental to them at another point in their life.

    For me personally, I found that my anxiety and stress at that time that I tried CBT was from a lack of self-worth. In fact, I have realized that most of my issues were rooted here—a lack of value and love for myself. However, this is not something that I could reframe, instead being something that I had internalized from very young as a childhood, something that I didn’t only think but believed at the core of my body. And it was the tension between the desire to be empathetic towards myself, to find value in myself, and the core belief that I had no value that made that very intense CBT so difficult. The intense CBT was forcing me to look at these core beliefs I believed in myself at the time and look them head on; to try and change them. Feeling the guilt and shame from my childhood on my back at all times, I was constantly nauseous, developed acid reflux, and struggled to keep food down. I felt like even more of a failure for not being able to do CBT. I wish I could go back in time and hold who I was then, tell myself that it was not my fault and that sometimes, being easy on myself is the hardest thing to do.

    Instead, EMDR, IFS, and yoga were a better fit for me to start healing from trauma. They enabled me to heal first, my body, my emotions, my feelings—those wordless parts of myself that held the guilt and shame fueling the repetitive anxiety and obsessive thoughts, rumination, fear.
  • EMDR          
    EMDR, standing for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is often times considered the first line of treatment towards PTSD. EMDR is considered one of most effective treatments for PTSD. A study by Bessel van der Kolk compared EMDR to Prozac and to a placebo. It showed that after 8 EMDR sessions, most patients’ symptoms decreased significantly more with EMDR than the other two treatments With EMDR so much so that 1/4 of patients were considered completely cured— meaning PTSD symptoms were negligible (compared to only 1/10 from those who received Prozac).

    A quick summary of EMDR is that a therapist guides patient through 8 phases, and that bilateral stimulation is used o reprocess memories through phases 4 and 5. In Phase 4 (desensitization), the patient undergoes bilateral stimulation while thinking about memory until not disturbed by memory. In Phase 5 (installation), the patient installs a positive belief about the memory and process it until it feels completely true.

    I have found EMDR to make up the core of my healing, although it was very difficult at times. It really helped me desensitize certain memories and install new positive beliefs for myself—although EMDR towards Complex PTSD is much as less effective than towards regular PTSD, according to the The Body Keeps the Score. Perhaps this is why it was also so difficult for me at times. Although I often released a lot of emotions, cried, felt better afterwards etc., sometimes I would feel extreme fatigue for 3-4 days after the session. Depending on my life at the time, I would have to cut back on the number of EMDR sessions I was doing to be functional even at my day job. This was always a difficult balance for me, as I didn’t want to “sacrifice” my healing for money, but also wanted to be functional—for myself but for others, as when I was very fatigued, it would impact those close to me who didn’t like seeing me that way and for whom it was difficult.
  • IFS          
    IFS, standing for Internal Family Systems, focuses on the human body and uses a metaphor of seeing it as a “family”. A family made up of inner parts that have evolved to protect the core Self and that are in pain and hurt.

    I find this metaphor profound and healing. To me, the inner parts are like defense mechanisms of the mind—trying to protect ourselves from pain, or hurt. I find it similar in this way to the Change Triangle by Hilary Jacobs Hendel—that to experience love and acceptance, we must experience all of our emotions rather than identifying with our defense mechanisms. I also find it similar to what Buddhists and experienced meditators will use to describe the Soul, the Heart, the Consciousness that lies beneath our Mind, our Thoughts (equivalent to the Self as described by IFS).

    IFS focuses on people being able to access their Self and through that, to heal themselves and all of their parts. This has been tremendously healing for me, especially alongside EMDR.
  • Hypnosis / Hypnotherapy          
    I have only limited experience with hypnosis and hypnotherapy, but I found it to be calming and soothing. I only received it once but it felt similar to sound meditations and deep meditations which I describe here, bringing me to a place of love, acceptance, and rest. I believe they could be a useful tool to heal in the right settings.