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  • Ellen Haines

Which is Better for Healing Trauma - Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) or EMDR?



The after-effects of trauma are all encompassing and life altering. Living in fear, feeling anxious, and dealing with flashbacks that pop up like a jack in the box interferes with your day-to-day life, your health, and your happiness.


Please know that you are not alone and there is always hope for healing.


Fortunately, the world of trauma therapy has come a long way in the last 20ish years. We're learning more about the effects of trauma on the brain and the body, and treatment options have evolved significantly.


If you've experienced a traumatic event and are struggling, it's helpful to understand the treatments that are available so that you can choose what best suits your personal healing needs.


Two newer methods for healing trauma are Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT).


Rapid transformational therapy was created by world-renowned hypnotherapist Marisa Peer, who developed the method over a period of 35 years by working with thousands of clients. By combining hypnotherapy with aspects of psychotherapy, neurolinguistic programming (NLP), internal family systems (IFS), and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) she was able to create a well-rounded and comprehensive therapy method that allowed her clients to transcend their greatest challenges with speed.


EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro, a psychologist who randomly discovered that watching the cracks on her evening walks helped her to heal and process the trauma of a messy divorce. She started experimenting with bilateral eye movement in her therapy practice and saw that it helped her clients immensely.


Trauma and the brain

Picture your brain like a massive, MASSIVE filing cabinet. Now imagine that each filing cabinet stores every type of experience you've ever had. You have a cabinet for your family, your friendships, your job, experiences at school, the things you know lots of stuff about, and the list goes on and on. You also have different cabinets to store things about yourself like your hobbies, your likes, your dislikes, and how you view yourself.


Each night when you go to sleep your brain takes all of the information and experiences from your day and it stores the "important stuff" that you may need to remember in the appropriate file. This mostly happens during REM sleep.


Here's the important thing to understand about your brain. It is a total control freak and it really likes everything to be stored away neatly so that it all makes sense.


If something happens that your brain doesn't like or is unable to accept into one of the filing cabinets, it causes a big disruption. The brain looks at the file and says what the F is this? I don't have a filing cabinet for that.


So the brain takes the file and shoves it into the cabinet that best matches it but the file doesn't quite fit and it kind of sticks out so that the cabinet drawer doesn't close all the way.


If the traumatic event was an abusive relationship, the file might get stored in your relationship drawer and keep disrupting all of the other memories. On top of that, it will make it tough to experience all of your future relationships without continually having this pesky file pop up and remind you about what happened.


EMDR and RTT are similar in that they help you go back to the folder and file it correctly so that it doesn't keep popping up and disrupting your daily life.


While the goals of both EMDR and RTT are to change the way you look at the traumatic event (or events), the techniques are very different.



What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was developed as a way to treat trauma, PTSD, and other disorders.


EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (side to side eye movement) to activate both hemispheres of the brain simultaneously. It is believed that this helps recreate the "re-filing process" that naturally occurs during REM sleep, allowing the trauma to be reprocessed and "refiled".


EMDR therapy has three main objectives:

1. Identify and resolve the distressing thoughts and feelings from the traumatic event

2. Teach coping skills that minimize the emotional response to future triggers

3. Strengthen adaptive beliefs (or replace maladaptive beliefs) about oneself, others, and the world


Here are a few things to know about EMDR


1. You should have an understanding of what traumatic event you want to reprocess and heal (a specific memory or experience, a disturbing image, a person, or event)

2. EMDR is best for resolving symptoms or challenges that are specifically related to the trauma

3. Typical sessions last 60-90 minutes

4. A typical treatment plan will require somewhere between 6-12 sessions, 1-2x weekly

5. With EMDR you remain completely conscious


The 8 stages of EMDR


1. History & Treatment Planning - Gathering information about the client's history, developing a plan, and assessing the trauma.


2. Preparation - Explaining the process of EMDR and preparing the client by developing coping strategies and resources for you.


3.Assessment - Identifying the disturbing images, sounds, thoughts, or physical sensations related to the traumatic event while establishing a baseline from which to measure progress


4. Reprocessing and Desensitization - This involves focusing on the emotionally disturbing memory, target, image, or event repeatedly until it no longer provokes a strong emotional response. This doesn’t mean you have to relieve the trauma experience. Instead, you and your therapist deal with unhelpful trauma pathways in your brain by creating a better experience that starts with noticing sensations, emotions, or mental images connected to the memories.


5. Installation - Learning how to respond to the trigger in the future and developing positive coping strategies to associate with the "target"


6. Body Scan - Scanning the body to look for any lingering tension, stress, or distress that remain with the goal of neutralizing those physical sensations.


7. Closure - helping the client return to a calm state


8. Reevaluation - You'll discuss the memories that have been processed to ensure the client isn't distressed while determining future targets in follow up sessions



What is Rapid Transformational Therapy?


While EMDR was developed as a treatment for PTSD, Rapid Transformational Therapy (RTT) is used across a variety of challenges from phobias, to anxiety, addiction, depression, chronic pain, low self esteem, and more.


RTT is a form of hypnotherapy that is designed to heal mental, emotional, and physical issues, using the power of the subconscious mind. RTT recognizes that 95% of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are deeply embedded at a subconscious level and that in order to create lasting change, we need to work with the client's subconscious mind.


The way the brain processes information is fundamentally altered during hypnosis. Awareness shifts from the conscious analytical state (cerebral cortex) to the unconscious and emotional state (sub cortical). This allows you to directly influence systems involved in defining your sense of self, internal bodily processes, instinctual behaviors, and emotions.


With RTT, we don't assume that the traumatic event or events are the single direct cause of the issue(s) the client is facing. Instead, we leverage hypnosis and "regress" the client back to the influential scenes that are the true root cause of the client's symptoms, behaviors, or emotional challenge. This activates the client's subconscious and enables them to uncover the specific events, beliefs, and emotions that lie directly beneath the issue.


Once the client has reviewed and unpacked several scenes, the RTT practitioner will guide them to make new connections and insights about themselves. This understanding often leads to profoundly liberating breakthroughs.


The remainder of the session is designed to process and heal any emotional baggage, install new positive thoughts and beliefs into the client's psyche, and empower them to make the changes they seek.


The client will be sent a recording after their session and be asked to listen to it for 30 days. This is a critical part of the process as it helps to "lock in" and expand upon the changes made within the session.


What are the benefits of each?


Benefits of RTT

1. RTT takes a comprehensive and holistic approach to trauma therapy by assessing factors outside of the traumatic event that may also be leading to the PTSD.


2. RTT can be used to recall repressed memories or to put the client "into the shoes" of their younger self. This process often leads to profound "aha" moments that provide a level of self awareness and insight the client wasn't able to access previously.


3. RTT can be useful when the client isn't aware of a specific event or events that are causing their issue.


4. RTT leverages altered states of awareness to create change at a subconscious level, making it an effective modality for mental, emotional, and behavioral change.


5. RTT inherently addresses underlying issues with self-worth, self-esteem, and "enoughness", empowering the client to make positive lifestyle changes.


6. When the client is open and committed to the process, they can expect significant benefits within 1-3 sessions


Training required to become an RTT therapist - ~350 hours


Benefits of EMDR

1. EMDR assists with the reorganization of the thoughts, emotions, and experiences associated with the trauma which helps the client reduce arousal and reactivity symptoms.


2. EMDR helps you develop coping strategies that help resolve looping thoughts, rumination, panic attacks, and negative self talk.