Michael Thaden, MS

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist


Avalanche Lake, Desolation Wilderness, by Michael Thaden 2010

Continuing advances and revelations of neuroscience are supporting the art and science of psychotherapy in more effective and efficient resolution of complex human conditions.  This is perhaps most evident in the treatment of Trauma and Stress Related Disorders.  Trauma is now being more clearly recognized as a condition which can manifest in a wide range of symptoms.  The spectrum can include many features of Borderline Personality Disorder such as, Mood Instability, Self-destructive Behavior, Substance Abuse, Eating Disorders, Impulsive Behavior, Irritability, Depression, and Anxiety (Harvey, 1990, Fisher, 2007).  If you are feeling stuck with symptoms which are resistant to change, there may likely be underlying Trauma. 

Trauma is understood as a result of experience which has overwhelmed our capacity for Integration.  Trauma resolution requires a gradual compassionate Phase Oriented Treatment approach with an emphasis on establishing safety and empowerment.  Persistent symptoms can be productively approached by considering how they originated, and perhaps helped us cope or survive.  In this spirit they can be more compassionately related to and understood, ushering greater perspective for resolving burdens they carry within exaggerated Roles and Relationship patterns.  As more adaptive coping options are accessed and strengthened our symptoms can begin to relax and stabilize, opening a path for underlying trauma to resolve.  Mindfulness meditation skills are central in this process as a foundation to support trauma therapy.  The body holds keys to traumatic experience at an implicit level, and can become a reliable source of healing as we pay greater attention to the wisdom it provides.  Leaders in the field such as Bessel van der Kolk endorse Somatic approaches such as Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and EMDR as essential tools for effective  trauma treatment.

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), IFS (Internal Family Systems Therapy, and DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy) are truly modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches which incorporate Mindfulness based principles such as compassionate attention and valuing of personal present experience.   Daniel Siegel among other leaders in neuroscience research point to the importance of Integration as an intrinsic benefit of Mindfulness practice.  The common thread of Mindfulness appears significant in explaining why Evidence Based Research has shown EMDR and DBT to be effective treatment strategies for resolving Trauma related disorders, and symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder.  DBT has been recognized as effective in resolving difficult symptoms in various settings.  EMDR has similarly continued to expand it's scope with clinical applications in the resolution of protracted Grief, Depression, Anxiety, and Behavioral Addictions.  I am repeatedly gratified to see EMDR and DBT facilitate a more efficient and effective process in both Individual and Couples Therapy. 

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy and EMDR focus on multiple experiential modalities including visual imagery, thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.  They are supported by decades of research about how the human brain stores and resolves traumatic experiences, and fit well with established clinical practices for safe Phase-Oriented Trauma Treatment.  This entails beginning with stabilization and resource development as a foundation for processing targets of disturbance.  I consistently find this initial work of resource development to be a surprisingly rewarding and powerful source of healing in and of itself. 

There are several theories about exactly how and why EMDR works.  Perhaps the most simple premise is that alternating bilateral stimulation (eye movements or tapping moving from right to left sides of the body, and corresponding brain hemispheres) strengthens what’s true, and resolves what’s distorted, or false.  It is thought that traumatic memory is stored in an isolated fashion within the neuro-networks of the brain.  This prevents it from being accessed and modified by the whole range of experiences which the person truly has to draw upon and formulate life perspectives about.  I often think it's like resolving a skip on a record or CD so the music can play through and be enjoyed again.  EMDR facilitates access to the person’s true current capacity for adaptive perspectives, healthy reconciliation, and resumption of age-appropriate growth and development. 

Find out more about EMDR, DBT, and Trauma Therapy on the following links:


EMDR Institute, Inc. Research Overview
EMDR Institute, Inc. What is EMDR
Taking A Closer Look Scientific American
The Evidence On EMDR, New York Times

Dr. Andrew Leeds, Why EMDR Works

Phase Oriented Trauma Treatment

Bessel van der Kolk’s Trauma Center

Pierre Janet’s Treatment of Post-traumatic Stress by Paul Brown and Bessel A. Van Der Kolk
Bessel van der Kolk Trauma Memory and the Body
Bessel van der Kolk Trauma and EMDR Therapy
Introducing Issues in the Treatment of Complex PTSD Onno van der Hart, Kathy Steele, and Julian D. Ford

The U.S. National Center for PTSD

Mindfulness Training and Neural Integration, Daniel Siegel et. al.

Evidence Based Research on Mindfulness

Sensorimotor Psychotherapy Institute

The Power of Self to Heal Our Parts | Richard Schwartz, Soren Gordhamer | Wisdom 2.0 2017
Thich Nhat Hanh's softly spoken speech on breaking bad habits
Thich Nhat Hanh, Presence is the first act of love

Thich Nhat Hanh, How do I love myself?

Thich Nhat Hanh, Embracing Suffering with Mindfulness