Anyone can experience intense trauma. EMDR is widely considered one of the best treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Research has shown that EMDR therapy can be an efficient and rapid treatment for PTSD. Join us to hear from Wendy Byrd, LPC, LMFT, board of directors president of EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), to find out how EMDR therapy can help. June is PTSD Awareness Month.
- EMDRIA’s Find an EMDR Therapist Directory provides listings for more than 12,000 EMDR therapists.
- Read or subscribe to our award-winning blog, Focal Point, an open resource on EMDR therapy.
- Follow @EMDRIA on Twitter. Connect with EMDRIA on Facebook or subscribe to our YouTube Channel.
- Find out more about Wendy Byrd, LPC, LMFT at her website or on EMDRIA’s Find an EMDR Therapist Directory.
Musical soundtrack, Acoustic Motivation 11290, supplied royalty-free by Pixabay.
Produced by Kim Howard, CAE.
Kim Howard 00:00
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’re discussing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, the how EMDR therapy can help. Today’s guest is Wendy Byrd. Tell us a little bit about you your experience becoming an EMDR therapist and your experiences in EMDR therapy with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Wendy Byrd 00:32
My journey with EMDR started even before I was in graduate school, I was working at a treatment center for abused and neglected girls here in Austin. And there was just a lot of trauma. So I sort of entered the trauma field, not really knowing that I was entering the trauma field, just wanting to be in the field. And so you know, you start to understand trauma in a real way, when you spend eight hours a day with group fat girls, we had a girls on each of our littles, we call them cottages and just seeing the impact of the trauma that had on their just day to day functioning. So that made me want to go to graduate school to become a therapist, and one of the therapists there had trained with one of the early therapists in EMDR. And she was my mentor, though she talked to us about EMDR. And we could kind of see the results. These were pretty complex kiddos but but even with that, you could see that the kiddos who had EMDR had some some major differences. So there I was working, you know, in this treatment center, going to graduate school and EMDR was never mentioned in my graduate program. But as soon as I got out, probably six months to a year after I got trained in EMDR. I’m not sure of the timeline, but it was very soon after. And I had a client in my practice that had pretty severe childhood abuse and was dissociative. And I just knew that EMDR was going to be the thing that was going to help the most. So I got signed up for training, and have been, you know, a proponent of EMDR ever since.
Kim Howard 02:24
And amazing impact that any therapist but especially an EMDR therapist can make on somebody who’s experienced such trauma, and then giving them a solution that helps them live a better, happier, healthier life. I mean, that is so rewarding. And it’s amazing how you realize what was happening with your with a young adults or the children that you were working with tou know?
Wendy Byrd 02:50
Yeah, I kind of feel like there was a lot of synchronicity for me, just because everything sort of lined up. And it just made sense. And so since for early early in my career, I just recognize the impact of trauma and was lucky enough to to be associated with people who were studying such a phenomenal therapy and seeing the impact of it. So I went all in with EMDR really early.
Kim Howard 03:16
Great. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. But the next question is, what is your favorite part of working with PTSD? Sounds like perhaps the outcome of the of the patient, but I’ll let you tell us what your favorite part is.
Wendy Byrd 03:29
You got it, I kind of kind of am a bit of a results driven person. And I’ve heard this from other EMDR therapists. I’m not sometimes I think I’m not really what most people think of a therapist because I tend to be a little bit more, let’s go in, let’s get it done. Show me the results. That’s it, you know, so I joke that I probably wouldn’t be a therapist, if it wasn’t for EMDR because I would have, it would have not been a good fit. But EMDR is so results oriented and so structured and just makes so much sense that you can you know, you can take what looks like a very complex presentation from someone who’s really struggling in an in pain and you can quickly organize it into a robust treatment plan and know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And you know, I sometimes tell my fair, my clients and my supervisee supervisees from an EMDR perspective we almost don’t say anything that doesn’t have some sort of reason for it being said it’s that it’s that powerful. Everything that you say has a reason for saying it at the time that you said it and I have found that clients really like that because they feel like okay, we’re not we’re not searching we’re not in you know, here’s here’s an understanding of what’s what’s going on and even if they don’t believe they can change they will lean into the therapist trust of this can be different So they feel supported very quickly.
Kim Howard 05:03
That’s great. I mean, there’s a, you know, that relationship with your therapist is very much like dating and finding the right group of friends and finding the right job, you know, there has to be a fit, and there has to be a connection. And if you are in a therapy situation where you don’t think the therapist gets what you’re saying, or is helping, or you’re not connecting, it makes the treatment plan even more difficult. So it feels like there’s an efficiency with EMDR that you might not get with other forms of therapy, which I think people are attracted to that part.
Wendy Byrd 05:36
I agree, I think, I find that most of my clients are very attracted to that, even if they don’t realize that’s what’s gonna happen when they come in, very quickly, they feel settled. And when they feel settled in, and they kind of trust that the therapist understands the process, then you can move through the early stages of building your relationship and, and those pieces so much easier. Because there is there’s that established piece of I feel like, you know, what you’re, I feel like you’re telling me what’s accurate about what I’m what I’m sensing and feeling. You just, it just makes it easier to build trust so much faster. And trust is essential, in any therapy.
Kim Howard 06:21
Over it through the given your expertise with marriage and family counseling, can you touch on how PTSD impacts the marriage and or family unit?
Wendy Byrd 06:29
Yeah, I mean, I, from years and years of sort of watching couples, and watching families and understanding trauma, you start to see patterns. And I think that what is really interesting, and I wish was more spoken about is, and I think it’s starting to be in the field is the idea that even our best intentions won’t stop us from passing our trauma down to our kids, and having it impact our relationships with the ones that we care about. So when when you’re carrying around all of the challenges from whether it’s a single incident, PTSD, or it’s more, it’s a more complex, you know, presentation and history of adversity and trauma throughout the lifetime, it’s going to show up in where it shows up the most is going to be in our closest relationships. So in couples, it’s, it can be that, you know, it’s when it’s a single incident, and you can kind of pinpoint you were this way before x event, and now this is happening after, then there’s a little bit of an easier understanding of, okay, this is trauma, and this is how it’s impacting you. And then, in the course of that, of course, it’s coming out in all the areas of your life. So it’s going to impact your patients and understanding with your spouse, it’s going to impact how you interact with your children, and you know, your friends, are you isolating Are you easily agitated, and hyper vigilant sort of misreading cues that weren’t really there. That’s the impact of trauma. And if it’s, you know, if there’s a before and after, then families can kind of pinpoint and understand it. If it’s more of the kind of trauma that you had to survive, you know, to get through, and now you’re out and you’re building a life, and you’re focusing on your career and trying to build a family. But there’s these personal struggles or emotional challenges or substance abuse problems, then people don’t really attribute it to a trauma. But it really is, it’s the long version of what trauma looks like, and how it impacts the family. And so couples will start to struggle, they’ll start to trigger their own staff, they they start to have defenses and patterns that show up, they don’t even know kind of that they’re that they’re defending against hurts in the current situation, but also bringing in belief systems and early experiences. And then their children will start to develop those same ways of defending themselves so that they don’t get hurt, right. So whether it’s don’t feel your emotions, because no one knows how to tolerate sadness. So we cut it off. And that’s a, you know, a thing that has happened for generations in our families, or it’s anger or substance abuse, it’s going to impact the entire system. And the family is just the first unit. You know, it’s going to impact. Yeah, well,
Kim Howard 09:39
Those are the people who are close to you, and that’s where you can let your hair down, so to speak. I remember when my children were younger, and they were going to daycare and the daycare provider center would tell me you know, when the kids you know, they act like they’re supposed to at school, daycare, and when they get home and they let it all hang out. That’s very normal because that means they’re so comfortable at the family home, that they know that they can act however they want, and they don’t have to be on, you know, and I thought that was a really good analogy in terms of, you know, how you behave in public and how you behave with people that you trust, you answer that question really well, because you talked about oh, how you think that the family that the traumas gonna stop with your generation, like if you had it, and you, you even recognize it, like, if I grew up with an alcoholic father, which I did, I knew that was traumatic, but that you’re going to, you think that you’re going to be able to stop whatever issues you had with that relationship with your children. And oftentimes, you you’re not able to do that, yeah, through to the next generation in different ways. So…
Wendy Byrd 10:41
That’s right, it just gets passed down until it’s cleaned up. When I say cleaned up, I mean, it’s stored differently in the brain, so that our reactions to our environment start to change our personality, the thing that we think is so stable, starts to be able to be more flexible, less rigid, starts to be able to feel emotions, and tolerate them without you know, having to run in hide or explode, or, you know, get afraid, all of those kinds of things we we sort of attribute to personality. And many of the challenges that we have are, are not really our baseline personality, it’s the things that we’ve been given are there so far back in our history that we don’t even recognize where they came from. And that’s what I love about EMDR is you can go back and do such a thorough history taking with with people and then their life story starts to make sense. And they get to remove some of the things that they are struggle with about themselves from owning, you know, this is just who I am to, oh, this was kind of given to me. And there’s something that can I can do with it. And I can fundamentally be different. And I just think that’s so freeing, but also such a gift to someone, so they don’t have to carry around the shame of, well, this is just who I am. And it’s not good. So I guess I just have to deal with it.
Kim Howard 12:08
Right? When I put it. Are there any complexities of difficulties using EMDR? therapy with PTSD?
Wendy Byrd 12:13
Oh, sure. No, I told everybody that it’s really good and great. Oh, by the way, little silver lining. Definitely want to work with a well trained therapist who understands trauma and who understands EMDR. Because at all points in our therapeutic work, the EMDR therapists is has decision points to make what to do, can I do this or that it kind of goes back to you don’t say much without having having a reason for saying it. You know, we’re not just sitting around kind of chit chatting or talking about the trauma for no reason, I kind of think, you know, don’t talk so much about trauma unless you’re going to work on it, because it’s painful in it, it’s hard to close it back down. And you know, people will walk around after telling their trauma story for days and days. dysregulated. So don’t do that for no reason. Only do it because you’re ready to work on it. Otherwise, it’s kind of mean, that’s how I just kind of mean to do that. So, you know, I would say, you know, at all, there’s lots of decision points for moving through an entire treatment plan with EMDR. And each client’s gonna be different, but it’s the way that therapist thinks about it and the way that therapist understands what’s happening that gets you there.
Kim Howard 13:44
How would you apply EMDR therapy and PTSD to multicultural populations?
Wendy Byrd 13:50
Well, I think we are just starting to have a conversation as as a population to unspoken traumas, systemic traumas that groups of people in this country and around the world have experienced that we just turned a blind eye to the unfairness and inequalities and roadblocks. You know, we all know the big a big stories throughout history that are so painful to listen to you will so many of our fellow Americans that you know are by pop and diverse histories and they their stories have been marginalized and not really seen through the lens of trauma. And so as we recognize how much trauma impacts just the individual one on one trauma, we can start to imagine how impactful a systematic a system that holds you back and invalidates your experience and sees you as lesser than how much that has has an impact on large groups of people and community and that we can talk about it and start to focus on healing that and start to own and take responsibility. You know, one of the things that I see when people are working through their trauma is that it’s easier for them to take responsibility for things that they’ve done that maybe wasn’t their best finest moments, because they don’t have to carry the shame of it. They understand where it came from. And they’re strong enough internally to hold responsibility for the things that they have done that haven’t been maybe their finest moments. And I think as a as a society, we have to start healing our own trauma so that we can take ownership and responsibility for the things that we have done that have hurt people in the past, because it’s hard for people to heal from their trauma, if what was causing the trauma was not under their control.
Kim Howard 15:53
Exactly. Yeah. Is there anything that you would like people outside the EMDR community to know about PTSD?
Wendy Byrd 16:00
What the number one thing that I think I would like for people to know is, it’s your body’s natural reaction to overwhelming challenging experience, whether it’s one or many, and that you can let yourself off the hook for something being wrong or bad, that it’s just natural. It’s, it’s your body’s trying to protect you. It doesn’t feel good, but that’s what’s happening. And that’s how the body works and that they can, they can change the body can can change those reactions, the brain can unlock those experiences and and relief as possible. Because you know, it’s who wants to talk about something if they don’t think they can change it. If I can’t change it, maybe it’s best to not talk about it, but if you can change it, then let’s talk about it so that we can start that process.
Kim Howard 16:56
This has been the let’s talk EMDR podcast with our guest Wendy Byrd. Visit www.emdria.org for more information about EMDR therapy, or to use our Find an EMDR Therapist Directory with more than 12,000 therapists. Our award-winning blog Focal Point, offers information on EMDR and is an open resource. Thank you for listening.
EMDR International Association
Copyright © 2022 EMDR International Association
Howard, K. (Host). (2022, June 1). EMDR Therapy and PTSD with Board of Directors President Wendy Byrd, LPC, LMFT (Season 1, No. 1) [Audio podcast episode]. In Let’s Talk EMDR podcast. EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/letstalkemdrpodcast/
EMDR Therapists, General/Public
Let's Talk EMDR podcast