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A No-Cost Treatment for Victims of Sexual Trauma

March 23, 2021

Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s Hungerford Hope Project is providing life-changing therapy to trauma victims through Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Funded by the Office of Victim Services, the Hungerford Hope Project provides case management and EMDR therapy at no cost to people 18 years old and over who have been victims of sexual trauma in either childhood or adulthood. The program currently has four staff members trained in EMDR.

EMDR is a therapeutic practice using eye movements, sounds or pulsations to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain – a process called bilateral stimulation (BLS). By focusing on specific aspects of a distressing experience, along with BLS, the therapy can bring about powerful changes in the brain, helping to alleviate distress and assist in progressing toward better emotional balance.

“When you experience a trauma like sexual abuse, the natural coping capacity of your brain is that it becomes overwhelmed, and you can experience things such as anxiety, depression and Posttraumatic stress disorder,” said Tracy Morales-Gabelmann, behavioral health coordinator. “EMDR therapy allows individuals to reprocess that information until it is no longer psychologically disturbing to them.”

EMDR therapy can also be used to treat panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD and even addiction by using the brain’s natural healing abilities. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, are recreated during a session. Experiences during a session may include changes in thoughts, images and feelings.

“When you have a traumatic event occur, you attach a lot of emotion to it,” said Morales-Gabelmann. “EMDR helps you to attach different emotions. It helps you to recognize that maybe the emotions you are associating with the memory don’t belong to you; they belong to the person who caused you that distress.”

Morales-Gabelmann said that many patients remember things from childhood that they had never thought of before.

“People who have been in therapy for years show significant progress with EMDR,” she said. “As a clinician, it is so gratifying when a client has a breakthrough.”

For more information on Hungerford Hope Project, call 860.496.6350.