What is a personality disorder? According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10 personality disorders are defined as one’s thinking, feeling, and behaving deviating from the culture’s expectations, causing distress or problems functioning, and lasting over time. The pattern of experience and behavior usually begins by late adolescence or early adulthood and causes distress or problems in functioning. Without treatment, personality disorders can be long-lasting. We interview EMDR certified therapist, consultant, and trainer Jamie Sedgwick about how EMDR therapy can help with personality disorders and attachment trauma.
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Musical soundtrack, Acoustic Motivation 11290, supplied royalty-free by Pixabay.
Produced by Kim Howard, CAE.
Kim Howard 00:05
Welcome to the Let’s Talk EMDR Podcast brought to you by the EMDR international association or EMDRIA. I am your host Kim Howard. In this episode we are talking with EMDR, certified therapist, consultant and trainer, Jamie Sedgwick about EMDR therapy and personality disorders. Jamie is with trauma specialists of Maryland located in Frederick, Maryland. Let’s get started. Today we are speaking with EMDR certified therapists and consultant Jamie Sedwick about EMDR therapy and personality disorders. Thank you, Jamie, for being here today. We are so happy that you said yes.
Jamie Sedgwick 00:39
Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to have the opportunity to talk about this.
Kim Howard 00:43
Yeah. So Jamie, tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an EMDR therapist/
Jamie Sedgwick 00:48
It really has been a journey. So I when I started out as a therapist, I was working in an outpatient mental health clinic that was getting a lot of our referrals from higher levels of care. So it was a lot of folks coming in with diagnoses like bipolar, bipolar with psychotic features, borderline personality, sometimes other personality disorders sprinkled in. And what I started to notice common with everyone was reporting a trauma history. More specifically, attachment trauma starting pretty early on in life. And the more that I started to realize that I also started to realize that the top down therapy approaches that I was using really wasn’t working, so to speak. So it was, we were giving them tools to manage symptoms, but we weren’t healing the underlying trauma. And that’s when I started doing some research to figure out what could actually heal some of that trauma. And I found out about EMDR, and started researching trainings, I will be honest, I had no idea what I was getting myself into in the best way possible. I kind of went into it thinking this is going to be like this great tool that I’m going to add to my toolbox, my therapy toolbox, and ended up with a completely different way of doing therapy. So really leaning into thinking about AIP and how that shows up with personality disorders, where are the adaptive networks where the trauma networks. And so I kept after my basic training, I realized that I’m gonna need some more learning. So I kept doing consultation groups and learning more about dissociation and ego state work. And that’s kind of how we landed where we are today.
Kim Howard 02:36
All right, that’s great story. I mean, I think all the stories are interesting. And I feel like there’s a common thread that somebody has been working in the mental health field. And then someone introduced EMDR to them, or they read about it or heard about it. And Wallah, you know, they added it. I mean, I’m simplifying everything, but they added it to their practice and have discovered that it’s a really good trauma informed therapy, and they utilize it in their practice to help their clients. And hey, that’s really the goal here. Right?
Jamie Sedgwick 03:13
Absolutely. It completely changed how I think as a therapist.
Kim Howard 03:18
That’s great. I’m sure if Francine Shapiro were still alive, she would love to continue to hear these success stories that we talked to our guests. So that’s, that’s good to hear. So tell me, what is your favorite part of working within EMDR Therapy and personality disorders.
Jamie Sedgwick 03:33
So it is definitely seeing clients make progress, but not just seeing the progress happen. But seeing them be able to connect with that progress and recognize it for themselves. Because for a lot of people coming in with these diagnoses, whether they have received them elsewhere, or maybe wonder if it’s something that they might meet criteria for, there’s a lot of fear and feeling of is this a lifelong sentence kind of idea. Maybe even some hope lessness for some people they’ve been, they’ve done different kinds of therapy, and they really have felt that this isn’t really healing what’s underneath of it. And so to see clients be able to connect with, I’m making progress, I’m healing, I can better regulate my emotions, my relationships are starting to feel healthier. I know what boundaries look like. That’s incredible. And they start to have hope. And that’s definitely probably my favorite part of working with EMDR. And in folks with personalities.
Kim Howard 04:38
Yeah, I think what, what you and all of our other members out there and even people who aren’t members of our association, just people who offer counseling or therapy in general, I think, what an amazing vocation that all of you have to put yourselves in a situation where you’re taking on someone else’s distress, and someone else’s trauma and And the parts of someone’s life that has dysregulated them so much that they they’re suffering. And so you take all of that and you try to heal that person. I mean, I can’t imagine it’s a more worthy vocation and career path to choose than to help other people heal. So thank you for all that you do. We appreciate it.
Jamie Sedgwick 05:22
Thank you, I’m actually super grateful for the experience because I learned something from every single client that I work with. And so even though that’s not the goal, when they come into treatment, that’s what ends up happening. And so I know they come in to get help, and it’s certainly my hope that they get the help they’re coming in for, but they always ended up teaching me.
Kim Howard 05:44
That’s awesome. What successes have you seen using EMDR therapy with personality disorders, specifically through an attachment trauma lens?
Jamie Sedgwick 05:52
Yes, so one of the biggest presenting problems or most common presenting problems, that folks with attachment trauma or personality disorders come in to therapy with is usually around relationships. And so the successes are usually show up in their relationships. Sometimes it can take time, because part of the healing is them being able to tolerate their emotions more, so that they can then communicate more effectively and even know what they need from someone else. And so that can take time. But when they really start to notice that their relationships are starting to feel healthier, that they know what a healthy relationship looks like, and feels like. That’s, that’s really big. And, honestly, part of that work happens in the therapeutic relationship. And that is really a piece of also what I love about working with personality disorders is the therapeutic relationship itself becomes a therapy tool during phase two of EMDR.
Kim Howard 06:54
Got it. So for those of us who are outside of the therapy world, because our listeners run the gamut between MDR therapists, potential EMDR therapists clients who are seeking information about EMDR therapy. And I think some of us out there who are uninformed, have a preconceived notion about quote, unquote, what a personality disorder means or looks like and another person. So are there any myths that you would like to bust about EMDR therapy and personality disorders, and our attachment trauma?
Jamie Sedgwick 07:24
This might be my favorite question, because it’s something that I’m really passionate about. And honestly, one of the reasons I was really excited to be here today and to speak, because I’m hoping that people do hear this and can start to understand that personality disorder is really our attachment trauma. But I would like people to start to see them with attachment trauma and see them through that lens so that we can break that myth that they’re scary that they can’t be treated, or even honestly, within the mental health field that there they need to see some kind of specialists in personality disorders, we probably need a trauma specialist, and ideally, someone that’s trained in an evidence based trauma approach. Obviously, I’m a little biased, and my preference is EMDR. But if we have those tools, this is 100 percent treatable.
Kim Howard 08:13
That’s good to know. That’s, that gives people hope. Excellent, thank you. Are there specific complexities or difficulties with using EMDR for this population.
Jamie Sedgwick 08:24
Because we’re talking about attachment trauma that’s likely starting very early in life, even pre verbal or in utero understanding and being able to work with dissociation, ego states parts, however, you might think of that is super important when working with this population. And so usually phase two of EMDR is a longer process because we’re having to really hone in on treating dissociation before we get into phases three through eight, which is trauma reprocessing. And also phase two I kind of alluded to this earlier, is an opportunity to use the therapeutic relationship to start to model what a healthy relationship healthy communication healthy boundaries looks like. And of course, that’s happening within the framework of a therapeutic relationship that comes with its own boundaries. But that’s one of the reasons that I love it. And something that I’m doing from the very first session is talking about how this therapeutic relationship is ideally going to model what that looks like. And here’s what you can expect from me. And here’s what I need from you. And a lot of that is happening in phase two. And there’s usually some rupture and repair happening within the therapeutic relationship to having some difficult conversations and to model what that looks like. And so as the therapist, maybe a complexity is being able to do our own work so that we can manage anything that may come up for us because conflict isn’t complete. And being able to sit through some of that and be model those healthy things are super important. And then I would say for phases three, three through eight, the trauma reprocessing itself, again, really being familiar with dissociation so that you have any advanced trainings or tools that you might need their cancellation or FX stabilization protocol is one of my go twos. They’re just to help with some of that trauma reprocessing.
Kim Howard 10:27
Got it. How do you practice cultural humility as an EMDR therapist?
Jamie Sedgwick 10:33
This is, all of these questions are great. I’m saying every single one of them is great. But when I was really thinking about this, I thought, okay, so the first step is understanding our own experiences as a human, how that might impact our belief systems, how that may show up in the therapy space, so that we can make sure that doesn’t have to show up in the therapy space. That’s so important to create a safe space, which is really necessary for trauma reprocessing. So being able to look at our own experiences, and how that’s impacted us is the first step. And the second step is inviting these conversations into the therapy relationship early on. And that’s something again, that I’m doing very early on, maybe even in the first session asking about cultural belief systems, how a person identifies and then what their own individual experiences are within that cultural system to understand how that may impact our trauma work to is, are there adaptive resources or networks that we can use? And also is there maybe some some things that we need to focus on in terms of reprocessing. And for me, EMDR is a great modality that really lends itself to cultural humility, because it is really client focused and client LED. So we aren’t making assumptions about anything, we’re asking the individual about themselves and helping us understand that person in their experiences and how they show up.
Kim Howard 12:05
That’s a great answer. Thank you. Do you have a favorite free EMDR related resource you would suggest either for the public or other EMDR therapists?
Jamie Sedgwick 12:15
Free is great.
Kim Howard 12:18
Until it’s not, right?
Jamie Sedgwick 12:21
True sometimes to get what you pay for. But that was a real thinker for me. So I, this one isn’t specific to EMDR, but can be a good resource for people trying to learn about EMDR, NAMI [National Association for Mental Illness] often has groups that are sometimes good resources for psychoeducation, about different personality disorders. So whether it be a client that wants to gather some of that information, or even family members, that can be helpful. And the podcast ‘Notice That’ is really helpful. In terms of they’re different. They have different episodes about ego state, or dissociation parts, and even somatic techniques.
Kim Howard 13:02
Yeah, that’s the podcast has been mentioned on this podcast before and it’s a great resource, you know, they’re going into a lot more clinical detail than I think we do here at this podcast. But their audience is also different. You know, EMDRIA, has kind of a three-pronged audience. You know, we have people who are already EMDR therapists, people who are thinking about adding EMDR therapy to their practice. And we also have a public component. So people who are seeking information about EMDR therapy, and they want to find an EMDR therapist. So we’ve got the gamut. So yeah, that’s a great podcast and NAMI is a great resource. I follow them on social media or social media accounts, connect with them. And they are also very good resource. So I will list both of those in the description of the podcast so that people can have access to those links as well. What would you like people outside of the EMDR community to know about personality disorders and attachment trauma?
Jamie Sedgwick 13:59
I think I just go back to this is treatable. Understanding that this personality disorders are attachment trauma, and that means that it impacts how people feel a feel in relationships, and also even how they feel about themselves, but that ultimately it is treatable and that there is hope, and find a great EMT, or therapist if you’re someone that is concerned that you might meet criteria or you’re even noticing just anything coming up in terms of your relationship and boundaries and communication.
Kim Howard 14:39
Okay, great. This is one of my favorite questions of the podcast. If you weren’t any of the art therapists what would you be?
Jamie Sedgwick 14:47
That is a really fun question. I can understand why it’s your favorite. I think I would be a fitness instructor.
Kim Howard 14:57
What would you teach?
Jamie Sedgwick 14:58
Kim Howard 14:59
Are you like a spin girl? HITT or do you like yoga?
Jamie Sedgwick 15:05
I kind of do all of it. I think though I might enjoy running classes, like treadmill classes the most. And it’s just another way to connect with people. When I was thinking about what I might do if I wasn’t an EMDR therapist, no, I definitely can’t sit behind a desk and just work on a computer all day. Like I have to be interacting with people somehow. And as a fitness instructor, I feel like it’s also another role where you potentially changing lives and impacting people in a positive way.
Kim Howard 15:34
Absolutely. Pre-COVID, when I belong to a gym, one of our fitness instructors, I thought was a great reminder for people who are working out and trying to be healthier, and changing their bodies, said, ‘Your body is someone else’s ideal.’ In the class, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s a really good perspective.’ You know, you’re walking around, and you’re probably picking yourself apart about ‘Oh, this needs to be better. And that needs to be smaller. And I wish my arms were more toned’ and somebody else is looking at you in class or at the gym thinking, wow, that person looks really good. I wish I could look like that. And so I thought that was a great perspective to remember that. You may be a little harsh on yourself, but somebody else thinks you’re kind of perfect. You know.
Jamie Sedgwick 16:16
Fitness instructors are usually very inspirational. One of my favorite often says, ‘Own your no to protect your yes.’
Kim Howard 16:24
Oh, that’s good. I like that one.
Jamie Sedgwick 16:28
That’s something I’ve kind of internalized.
Kim Howard 16:30
Yeah, that’s a great one. Is there anything else you’d like to add, Jamie?
Jamie Sedgwick 16:35
I’m just really grateful for the opportunity to be here and talk a little bit about personality disorders as attachment trauma, and through that attachment trauma lens, and how that can be treated with EMDR. So hopefully, anyone hearing this starts to think a little bit about the fact that there is hope.
Kim Howard 16:54
That’s a great way to end the podcast. There is hope. There’s always hope. Thank you, Jamie, for being here today. This has been the Let’s Talk EMDR Podcast with our guests Jamie Sedgwick. Visit www.emdria.org for more information about EMDR therapy for to use our Find an EMDR therapist directory with more than 14,000 therapists available. Our award-winning blog, Focal Point, offers information on EMDR and is an open resource. Thank you for listening.
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Copyright © 2023 EMDR International Association
Howard, K. (Host). (2023, April 15). EMDR Therapy and Personality Disorders with Jamie Sedgwick (Season 2, No. 8) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
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