Using EMDR to Feel and Heal From Trauma – Rebecca Kase on The Healers Café with Manon Bolliger
In this episode of The Healers Café, Manon Bolliger, FCAH, CBHT (facilitator and retired naturopath with 30+ years of practice) speaks with Rebecca Kase about her work with EMDR to help clients feel and release stored trauma.
Highlights from today’s episode include:
Rebecca Kase 02:31
I think that one of my biggest lessons is, you have to feel to heal. And, you know, in our Western society, we get so infatuated with nervous system hacks, and here’s a magic pill, or here’s a magical intervention, and it’ll fix this right away. And that’s, that’s just not how our neurobiology works.
And that’s kind of the heart of trauma and PTSD and trauma responses is that your nervous system was overwhelmed. And it hasn’t been able to really digest the experience. And so, the past remains the present.
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And that’s kind of the heart of trauma and PTSD and trauma responses is that your nervous system was overwhelmed. And it hasn’t been able to really digest the experience. And so, the past remains the present.
ABOUT REBECCA KASE:
Rebecca Kase is a force of nature. Her warmth and authenticity make her a natural teacher and leader. She is an LCSW, yoga instructor, and EMDR trainer and consultant. Rebecca owns Kase & CO, an EMDR training and consultation business. Her expertise in polyvagal theory and supporting therapists to become more resilient makes her lectures refreshingly informative and dynamically engaging.
Rebecca lives in Washington state with her husband and four fur babies.
Core purpose/passion: Trauma healing and befriending the nervous system. I love helping people learn how to unlock and harness the healing power of the nervous system on their life journey. I incorporate EMDR, yoga, mindfulness, and polyvagal theory into my clinical work- as they are all amazing techniques for working with our neurobiology.
ABOUT MANON BOLLIGER, FCAH, CBHT
As a recently De-Registered board-certified naturopathic physician & in practice since 1992, I’ve seen an average of 150 patients per week and have helped people ranging from rural farmers in Nova Scotia to stressed out CEOs in Toronto to tri-athletes here in Vancouver.
My resolve to educate, empower and engage people to take charge of their own health is evident in my best-selling books: ‘What Patients Don’t Say if Doctors Don’t Ask: The Mindful Patient-Doctor Relationship’ and ‘A Healer in Every Household: Simple Solutions for Stress’. I also teach BowenFirst™ Therapy through Bowen College and hold transformational workshops to achieve these goals.
So, when I share with you that LISTENING to Your body is a game changer in the healing process, I am speaking from expertise and direct experience”.
Mission: A Healer in Every Household!
For more great information to go to her weekly blog: http://bowencollege.com/blog.
For tips on health & healing go to: https://www.drmanonbolliger.com/tips
About The Healers Café:
Manon’s show is the #1 show for medical practitioners and holistic healers to have heart to heart conversations about their day to day lives.
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Welcome to the Healers Café. Conversations on health and healing with Manon Bolliger. A retired and deregistered naturopathic physician with 30 plus years of experience. Here, you will discover engaging and informative conversations between experienced healers, covering all aspects of healing, the personal journey, the journey of the practitioner, and the amazing possibilities for our own body, and spirit.
Manon Bolliger 00:13
Welcome to the Healers Café. And today I have with me Rebecca Kase. . And she is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in trauma therapy. She is also the owner of Case and Company, and which is an E M D R training and consulting business. And she does also yoga which instructs and specializes in mind body psychotherapy work. So first of all, welcome yet to this easygoing discussion on what’s it like to be, you know, doing what you’re doing? And first question, though, how did you get there?
Rebecca Kase 01:04
Well, thank you so much for having me, I’m excited to share space with you. I got to where I am, Because I just found psychology to be absolutely fascinating when I took my first Psych class in undergrad and just felt this calling like, this is my dharma, this makes sense to me. And so, I pursued a undergraduate degree in Psych, and then got my master’s in social work, because there’s just so much you can do with that degree. And I really specialized in trauma, because of my own trauma healing journey, what it’s been like to just recover and heal from my trauma history, and just really falling in love with the power of the human spirit to overcome and to grow. And to find even greater resiliency, from who we were before, through our journey of transformation and healing. It’s pretty amazing and inspiring to hold space for people…
in that way.
Manon Bolliger 02:06
I relate. So we all come to it somewhat honestly.
Rebecca Kase 02:12
Manon Bolliger 02:14
It’s interesting, you know, it’s, so what’s the biggest lesson you learned from coming to it through it, to what you are now, the space you’re able to create?
Rebecca Kase 02:31
I think that one of my biggest lessons is, you have to feel to heal. And, you know, in our Western society, we get so infatuated with nervous system hacks, and here’s a magic pill, or here’s a magical intervention, and it’ll fix this right away. And that’s, that’s just not how our neurobiology works. And when we really lean into doing the work, and we feel the feelings, we need to feel on the sensations, and we’re with the grief and the loss and the trauma, and there is a way through it. And we often so quickly assume that to feel it means we’re going to succumb to it, or we’re going to be…we’re going to drown in it. And in fact, when you lean in, and you feel everything you need to feel it gets you closer to healing. And in that journey is where I think the juiciest lessons lie for our own growth. You know, I think back to some of my own trauma, healing experiences, and just the hundreds and hundreds of clients, I’ve worked with them some of the meaning that can be made after we heal of, I’m so resilient. I’m so strong, I never would have known how strong and resilient I was if I wasn’t forced to really look inside, right, and so feel the heal is really my mantra.
Manon Bolliger 03:54
And make sense. So, I mean, just to people who might not know what you’re talking about, on that level, right? In standard or conventional medicine, when people have feelings that come up, you know, whether it’s strong fears, or like, body anxiety, or these this sort of malaise, then usually the treatment of choice are the first ones is like you said, pills, you know. So, the idea is to dull and numb and make it go away medicated away one way or another. Right. And, and this is really based on deep misconceptions of, of the healing process, which I mean, it’s not surprising because, you know, it’s really disease management. So, it’s a way of managing but it’s not…managing and healing are two completely different and processes, right? Yeah, so explain maybe a case that comes to mind what feeling means?
Rebecca Kase 05:11
Yeah, um, I guess I had a client that I was working with a very long time ago who originally presented with a lot of numbing and avoidance behaviors, which I just want to also name that everything we do is an attempt to cope. And so, whether it’s substance use, or it’s binging on TV or food or checking out on social media, it’s all an attempt to regulate the nervous system. But when we can be more mindful of how are these patterns of coping, serving me, and how am I avoiding what are they achieving for me? And are there other ways I can go about that? I think a lot of doors open. So, you know, someone may present with, you know, a lot of avoidance strategies of, you know, binging or alcohol use, or substance use or over exercise or sleeping too much, or whatever that is. And as we slow down and invite some curiosity of what is that kind of knee jerk narrative that your nervous system is going to is that if I feel these things, I will spontaneously combust? Usually, it’s some kind of disastrous story like that, that we haven’t actually verbalized. Because it’s implicit, and implicit, meaning it’s kind of unconscious. And so, when we can just slow down and start to get curious about what is the narrative that goes along with this? Oh, if I feel these feelings, they’re more than I can tolerate. They’re overwhelming. It’s too much. And yes, they may feel overwhelming. But how can we invite in some techniques and strategies so that you can kind of titrate your exposure to them and change your relationship with them so that at some point, you can see those feelings and sensations as messengers. I always think of Rumi’s poem, The Guesthouse, it’s one of my favorite poems. And it’s essentially, you know, invite all of those feelings in because they are all messengers from beyond. And so, when we can start to learn, to trust our nervous system to trust like that I can feel feelings and sensations and not explode into flames, then then a lot of opportunity for insight and knowledge and wisdom are presented for us.
Manon Bolliger 07:33
Ya, very well said, Yeah. And your experience with Kalong? I’ve been asking several people this, because I have my own here. But how long does it get? Do you need to stick with an emotion for it to sort of dissipate.
Rebecca Kase 07:54
You know, in that therapeutic approach of dialectical behavioral therapy, DBT, which is pretty well known. One of the techniques we work on is exposing and busting some of our myths that we have. And one of our myths is that, you know, this feeling and sensation is going to last forever. And in fact, when we get really curious about that, and sometimes it’s too hard to do that on our own. And so that’s were having a therapist or a coach or a mentor to support that process is really helpful. But in fact, feelings and sensations rise and fall and run their course, usually very quickly. And so just a practice that I’ve learned, I’ve studied a lot of Buddhism, and obviously a lot of yoga, but just to practice, I’ve learned from some of my Buddhist meditation and mindfulness work is, when I’m feeling distressing feeling just, you know, we’ll sit down and just name it and just saying, I feel anxiety. I feel anxiety, I feel fear, I feel fear. And if I can just sit with it, and I just call it what it is. And I stay out of the narrative. I’m anxious. So, I’m a bad person. And I did something terrible. And here I am in the story. And I just try and keep my point of focus on the feeling on the sensation. I always find it changes pretty quickly. Pretty quickly.
Manon Bolliger 09:13
Yeah. Yeah, I have…my experience for that is about 90 seconds. That’s what I used to tell my patients just stay focused 90 seconds, you’ll be fine. And it and it does often leave before that. But to focus on something for 90 seconds is actually quite effective. Right? Because to stay with the feeling and not like you said, the narrative, right? Because the narrative just takes you away from it completely. Right? Because you can say a million things to yourself or revisit trauma or versions of it, or, I mean, we have an amazing imagination, whether it’s true or not true. It doesn’t seem to matter at all. But if it occupies us, we can’t do the work. It comes back. Right. So yeah, so tell us a little bit about EMDR. What? How does that work? Again, somebody who would, who has never experienced it, what do you do? What happens? But it’s interesting, because it’s not what the therapist says, like you’re staying with your feeling and emotion. And it’s really the, the movement of the pupils, you know, following it seems that breaks or, or does it just bring it more present like you more present? Like, I wonder if it really just separates the intensity? Because basically, if you’re in that state, you’re living it, like you said in the present, but now you’re actually doing something present. You know, which kind of puts the other one out of focus a little bit, though, you’re in that right?
Rebecca Kase 10:19
Yeah. So EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, it’s a super long term. So, we just call it EMDR. And it is an evidence-based therapy for trauma. So, what does that mean? If something is evidence based, that means that there’s been a lot of research that supports its effectiveness. So, it is a recognized first line treatment for trauma and PTSD by a number of leading health organizations like the World Health Organization, and SAMSA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. And EMDR really focuses on the storage of memory. And when we go through adverse experiences in our life, stressful experiences, traumatic experiences, really scary experiences, they can overwhelm our nervous system. And when our nervous system gets overwhelmed, it can impede our ability to process and make sense of experiences. And that’s kind of the heart of trauma and PTSD and trauma responses is that your nervous system was overwhelmed. And it hasn’t been able to really digest the experience. And so, the past remains the present. That’s a common saying in the trauma field of therapy of the past is the present, your nervous system continues to interact with your present day as if you were still going through that past traumatic experience. So much like your digestive system, like when you eat too much, what happens to your digestive system, you don’t feel good, right? Because that system got overwhelmed. And it couldn’t do what it was meant to do, which is digest your food. So, your nervous system is similar with experiences that overwhelm it, and it can’t digest them or metabolize them. So, in EMDR, we focus on we identify the specific memories that are correlated with the symptoms that you’re really wanting to address in therapy. And there’s a process that you go through with your therapist to kind of uncover some of those memories. Sometimes people come in, they’re very clear about what those are like, I was sexually assaulted, or I am a combat veteran. And there’s a lot of times that they’re not so evident, because they can be really sneaky. You know, pretty much all of us have experienced something traumatic, but most of us don’t go on to develop PTSD or significant symptoms. And so, trauma can really be understood as anything that just stresses and overwhelms your nervous system. So, in EMDR, we identify what those memories are, those experiences are that are contributing to the stress that you’re experiencing present day to the flashbacks or nightmares or anxiety or depression or sleeplessness. And the EMDR protocol, asks the client to think about the memory and feel the memory. So, you think about it, you notice the feelings and sensations that are associated with it. And then your therapist adds what’s called bilateral stimulation. So bilateral stimulation is provided in the form of eye movements. So, your therapist kind of moves their hand in front of your face, and you follow their fingers back and forth from side to side. Or it could be audio tones that alternate in your ears back and forth, or even just tapping, tactile tapping back and forth on maybe the shoulders or the thighs. And as you receive bilateral stimulation, within kind of the EMDR treatment approach, there’s like a whole treatment approach that we use. It’s not this simple. But the memory starts to change and shift and people state that gosh, I can’t really see it anymore. It’s foggy. I don’t feel those feelings anymore. My body is calmer. And at the end of reprocessing, or integrating a memory, people are left feeling, I feel regulated, I feel calm, I feel grounded. Sometimes they’re even able to look back on the memory with really adaptive statements like I’m a survivor. I did the best I could. I can trust myself. And so, at the end of EMDR, when you think of that memory, that was a terrible experience, you maybe wouldn’t wish it on anyone, maybe you wouldn’t want to go through it again. You’re just left with a lot of adaptive resiliency, which is going to contribute to your continued health and wellness. And in fact, after EMDR therapy, what research shows is that people continue to get better, so it doesn’t really wear off. Now, bilateral stimulation sounds super weird. For a lot of people. It sounds really strange. There’s been a lot of research on it. And there’s some real neurophysiological things that are happening when we add bilateral stimulation when people think about a memory. And in reality, we are bilateral beings. I mean we walk bilaterally, we run bilaterally, most of us read bilaterally from one side to the other when you walk into a new space, you scan the room kind of bilaterally, looking around. So bilateral is just part of the way that we integrate information. And so EMDR just harnesses this natural ability of the nervous system to heal and process experiences to a point that we call of adaptive resolution. So, you can make adaptive meaning of it, like I survived on strong, and it feels resolved in your nervous system, it feels like it’s done. Yeah. So, you’re onto something.
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Rebecca Kase 17:33
So, one of the pieces of how we believe EMDR to work is that you can maintain dual awareness. So dual awareness as I’m thinking about this memory from the past, but I still feel present. And you know, sometimes we lose that, like if we have a full-blown flashback, we’ve lost the present, right? But in EMDR, we really work to keep kind of one foot anchored in the present. So, your nervous system can take in that was then and this is now. Yeah, and then the other role that bilateral stimulation seems to serve is it’s very distracting. So, when you’re trying to think about this experience, and you feel those feelings and sensations, and someone is saying and follow my fingers, or notice these tones beeping back and forth in your ears, it’s distracting. And there’s some really interesting neurobiological research on this concept called the taxation of working memory, which is essentially if you think about something that’s upsetting to you, and you’re distracted at the same time, it seems to like break the memory. Memories lose their emotional charge. There’s also been research on this when people think of something upsetting and they play Tetris. So, there’s something about that distraction, that helps your nervous system to integrate it. It’s really fascinating.
Manon Bolliger 18:47
Yes, it is fascinating, you know, because I mean, simple things work. You know, and this is very simple, because, you know, we’re not that we’re super complex, but we’re not that complicated to unravel, right, like, you know, we’re so programmed to want to heal, that it’s a question of finding the key to sort of get in and allow this to take place. So, if somebody comes to you, that is, or believes that may have been trauma, right, like there’s a lot a lot of trauma that isn’t, you know, you start to become aware that something must have happened, but you don’t know what. How would you approach it with all the different, you know, modalities and systems that you have at your disposal?
Rebecca Kase 19:43
Yeah, well, I think that the first and most important piece is just to stay curious. And to tune into the part of you that has the sense of knowing that something happened, even if you don’t have explicit declarative memory of it. And that can certainly be the case when we’re working with preverbal trauma, you know, I was too little. So, I don’t actually have explicit memory because I was two years old, right? I mean, your explicit memory doesn’t develop until about four to seven years old. So really focusing on the story that your body is sharing and leaning into that with curiosity. And we can target experiences in EMDR, even if clients don’t have actual memories of them. So, I have a client recently, who we were working with EMDR. And we’re working on a memory of being in the womb and having the sense of not being wanted or loved. And even though she doesn’t have a concrete, I really remember that time, her body remembers that. And there’s a lot of distress associated with that, with that being kind of the beginning of your life. It’s, it’s kind of it’s, it’s like a foundational experience that has contributed to a lot of distress and a lot of self-loathing, and just feeling like I’m not worthy, and I don’t deserve love. And so, targeting that experience, helped her be able to feel that she’s deserving and worthy of love. And it wasn’t me, that was about something wasn’t right with my mom, because who wouldn’t want to love their child? How could that possibly be about me? And so we were able to work through that with EMDR by just staying really curious about the story her body shared.
Manon Bolliger 21:33
Mmm Hmm. Yeah, that’s very powerful to listen to the body. Because, you know, it’s actually more confusing to listen to the mind. We make up so much right, you know, and we, and I think that’s human nature, because in our levels of understanding, we readapt the sort of the chronology or the history, in a sense, right, we kind of we try and make sense of it, which is all sense, right? It’s not, it’s not necessarily a body-based feeling space. It doesn’t do that. Now, out of curiosity, have you had people that became aware through any of the therapies you’ve used, that couldn’t handle the reality that they therapeutically got to or that they, you know, in other words, was the therapy overbearing to them?
Rebecca Kase 22:49
I think that when you are in the role of being a healer, if you aren’t mindful and thoughtful about the power that you hold, and if you don’t pace interventions, alongside the readiness of your client’s nervous system and their body, yes, you could definitely make things worse. You know, I sometimes use the metaphor of Imagine that you are getting ready to run a marathon, and you just had a cheeseburger, and some Cheesy fries, and a liter of coke, how do you think that’s gonna go? It’s not gonna go very well, because your body doesn’t have the resources and nutrients, it needs to do that. And so that is a really important part of trauma therapy, of pacing your interventions in your work alongside your client’s nervous system, we don’t want to go too fast and flood the nervous system that is a hallmark of trauma, flooding and overwhelm. But we also don’t want to go so slow, that we’re avoiding the work, which is also the other hallmark of trauma, avoidance and flooding, that swinging pendulum from avoidance to flooding. And so that takes some skill, I think to find that and to, to it also requires a lot of feedback from your client of asking how are things going, you know, and tracking symptoms and tracking how they’re doing with interventions. But I think it’s about being very mindful of your role.
Manon Bolliger 24:09
Hmm, yeah. And I think therapies lend themselves differently, you know, to in other words, there might be some therapies that are more…I mean, it’s always in the hands of the doer. But and so sensitivity is always required. But I think there are some, some therapies that might be or require different skill sets, maybe, you know, like, I know, in the work I do, which also releases trauma. It’s a hands on very gentle technique. It’s called Bowen therapy. And you know, you have to look at the reactions of the body. Not necessarily if the person says woah stop. You do pay attention to that, but you might look at like, whether they’re shivering, or they’re, you know, they’re, they’re starting to cry or whether they’re too hot or too cold, are there big body changes, you know, that would make would signal hold off, and let’s see what happens. But I think that provided you do that, in a preliminary level of care. I haven’t found that people can’t handle what they discover, like, my philosophy is that when it’s time it comes out, and you’re at the right place at the right time for the right reason, for the, you know, for the release of what it is that you need to learn, you know, but it has that little piece where yeah, you know, you you’ve got to be aware.
Rebecca Kase 25:55
Yeah, timing is important. And I definitely resonate with, you know, I’ve worked with clients over the years who have had some memories that were outside of conscious awareness, arise and come to their awareness. And whenever that happens, they’ve always reported to me, oh, my gosh, I’m so thankful that I know this now, because this now I make more sense to myself. Right. And, and it is helpful, but there’s a lot of people who have that sense of I think something happened, and they never get that answer. So, then the other piece is, you know, how do you find peace with just the high likelihood that you’ll never know, and not chase after having to know so that you can put that story together in your mind? And that’s, that’s hard work.
Manon Bolliger 26:47
So how do you counsel people, when they’re in that state, that there’s more like, there’s a lot of I mean, I’ve experienced that, too. It’s like, well, Oh, okay. I have a sense, but you know, shall we continue and continue? Like they’re searching for the final thing, which I agree with, you may or may not show up, right?
Rebecca Kase 27:13
Yeah, I think it’s about learning to practice acceptance of, you know, how can I stay curious, based on the information I have in front of me, which is usually based on information your body is giving you? And, but also not kind of getting worked up in this anxious kind of neurotic way of like, I must know the answer, I must know the story. And finding peace with you are who you are, whether or not you know, and how can you just find acceptance and peace there. And that might be through spiritual work, or mindfulness or self-compassion, or, you know, CBT, or act or EMDR. Even I think it’s really specific to the client. But you know, we’re narrative creatures, and we love to make stories as you kind of referenced earlier. And that’s such a gift. And it’s also a curse, because we like to create stories. And sometimes those stories are really helpful, and they’re very entertaining. But sometimes our stories are very false. And inaccurate, I would say probably a lot of the narratives we hold are pretty false, because they’re from a very biased lens, a very limited lens, our own lens. And this is where I’ve, I’ve personally found Buddhism and yoga philosophy to be really helpful of just practicing nonattachment and letting go, and just being present with what is I’m okay, right now. I’m alive right now. Whatever happened is gone. And in the past, and all I have is the present.
Manon Bolliger 28:47
I love your last statement. It’s so true. And that is the, the way out of our minds, you know, out of the narrative out of the story, you know, is not to take it so seriously, you know, to see that separation, you know, and to be the witness of what is.
Rebecca Kase 29:12
Yes, I love I love that piece of yeah, just finding the separation and not taking yourself so seriously. That’s one of my favorite mantras I share with people all the time, just don’t take yourself so seriously. And I think also getting curious with your clients of if you knew the answer to this or if you knew the story, what do you feel that would give you? And it might be why make more sense now Okay, but how can you find peace with like, you make sense just as you are as who you are. And if you learn this story, are there consequences to that? What are the benefits? How could that be distracting? How could that change your view of who you are? You know, there’s, it’s, it’s deep. Yeah. Sometimes we don’t want to Know the story. Like I had surgery recently. And, you know, I was asking my doctor a little bit about like, so what are you going to be doing? And he’s like, Are you sure you want to know what I’m going to do? We shared a little bit, and I was like, I actually I don’t think I want to know. I don’t need that story in my mind. Yeah, truth is power. And truth is also very dangerous sometimes of knowing some of that stuff, I think,
Manon Bolliger 30:32
Well, you have to be prepared or what you want the knowledge you don’t like some people, even if they get every little detail, it actually helps them. But other temperaments they don’t like it actually becomes overwhelming. Right. So, I think it’s to trust yourself what you need to know or what you don’t need to know. And question it. So, for sure. Anyway, I our time is like up. Is there any last statement? And also, where can people reach you? We’ll have you know where to reach you underneath. But any, any last insider share you’d like to make?
Rebecca Kase 31:15
Yeah, I think my last piece is just going back to what you had asked earlier of, you know, what’s one of your favorite sayings or ways of being? I don’t remember exact question, but just be humble and be brave. I think that that’s the best way we can show up to our lives and to our own healing is being humble. Recognizing we’re all pretty small and fragile but being really brave at the same time as much as we can. You can find me at kaseandco.com. And you can also find me at rebeccakase.com.
Manon Bolliger 31:47
Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
Rebecca Kase 31:50
Thank you Manon.
Thank you for joining us at the Healers Café with Manon Bolliger. Continue your healing journey by visiting TheHealersCafe.com and her website and discover how to listen to your body and reboot optimal health or DrManonBolliger.com/tips.
* De-Registered, revoked & retired naturopathic physician, after 30 years of practice in healthcare. Now resourceful & resolved to share with you all the tools to take care of your health & vitality!