Dear Fellow Practitioners in Mental Health,
Although the therapeutic relationship is the main factor in our clients’ progress, you may be contacted by clients who are presenting with the impact of trauma for whom EMDR could be a powerful option; If you have a client whom you would like to talk through,  please contact meI also offer consultant supervision for practitioners working towards accreditation

You will know that the impact of childhood adversity is often at the root of the mental health problems that our clients present with 1. Repeated and chronic traumatic events in childhood can manifest in adulthood as Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder .

This has been increasingly recognised in the validation and publication of Complex Post-traumatic Stress Disorder [ CPTSD] as a diagnostic category in ICD 11 [2018]. In addition to symptoms of PTSD, clients with CPTSD will have experienced chronic, repeated & prolonged trauma and will have difficulties with emotional regulation, self-identity and relational capacity.2

Therefore, it can be challenging to distinguish borderline personality disorder from CPTSD, although there is an overlap, there are identifiable differences. Some clients who have had chronic, repeated and prolonged trauma will rather develop PTSD than CPTSD. It is possible for single incident trauma to result in CPTSD. CPTSD as might be expected, has a greater impact on functioning. High levels of comorbidity are expected in these clients, especially anxiety, agoraphobia , panic disorder ,  disordered eating , substance misuse and depression .

Women, because they are more likely to be subject to interpersonal violence are more likely to suffer from PTSD and CPTSD, and to experience the symptoms for longer than men. These diagnoses are associated with an increased risk of suicide. PTSD causes poor social and family relationships, absenteeism from work, lower income, education and occupational success.

CPTSD is a new diagnosis, and for this reason, treatment efficacy of E.M.D.R. for this diagnosis as opposed to PTSD has not been subject to randomised controlled trials.

The Assessment of PTSD and CPTSD.

It can be easy to miss or underestimate the impact of trauma in a client for the following reasons.

  • The comorbidity associated with the trauma may be the main presentation, so therapy may help with state change, rather than trait change.
  • The avoidance of retraumatisation and associated shame and guilt by talking about it in therapy.
  • The avoidance is very longstanding, and the client’s behaviour and relationships have adapted.
  • Dissociation is not always recognised. Dissociation can present in varied and subtle ways, for example, intermittent emotional shut down in relationships , feeling cut off from those people and places around you , subjective forgetfulness and poor concentration.
  • The trauma is embodied rather than in conscious awareness, so without considering physical sensations, will be missed.
  • Aspects of the therapeutic relationships trigger traumatic memories and /or the client does not feel safe enough to work on the trauma. 3

The following validated and widely used tools may help to fill gaps in the process of assessment and assess response to treatment ;

PCL- 5 is based on DSM- V [2013], completed by the client assesses the impact of a single event over the last one month.[U.S. Department Veterans Affairs .PTSD : National Center for PTSD. ] This questionnaire assesses symptoms of PTSD .

International Trauma Questionnaire based on ICD-11 2018 criteria ; completed by the client and assesses symptoms of PTSD before asking about the additional areas of emotional regulation , negative self concept , relational capacity and functioning which make up CPTSD 4, 5 . The clinician completed International Trauma Interview is in development.

References; Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition pg.272-273. International Classification of Diseases .

  1. Moller L.Augsburger M Traumatic experiences , ICD-11 PTSD , ICD-11 Complex PTSD , and the overlap with ICD-10 diagnoses . Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia 2020 : 141 :421-431
  2. Cloitre M. 2020 ; ICD-11 Complex post-traumatic stress disorder ; simplifying diagnosis in trauma populations . British Journal of Psychiatry. Volume 216 Issue
  3. The Body keeps the Score ; Mind , brain and body in the transformation of trauma .Bessel Van Der Kolk .Penguin September 2015 . ISBN 9780141978611.
  4. Cloitre et al 2018 ; International Trauma Questionnaire . Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavia
    DOI : 10.111/acps.12956
  5. Murphy D., Shevlin M., A validation study of the ITQ to assess PTSD in treatment -seeking veterans . British Journal of Psychiatry 2020 .216 , 132-137.

Case Study

How does Sharon meet criteria for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder ?

DSM - V . 309.81
Criterion A ;
Exposure ;
Traumatic bereavement , Age 16 years.
Sudden , repeated direct exposure to dying patients in circumstances that were outside of her professional experience.

Criterion B ;
One or more of the following ;

  1. Recurrent involuntary and intrusive memories;
    Images of the faces of patients she had nursed.
  2. Recurrent distressing dreams;
    Nightmares of close relatives dying .
  3. Dissociative reactions;
    Gaps in recalling what she had done the day before.
  4. Intense or prolonged distress to internal or external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event;
    Anxiety and panic going to work
    Overwhelmed by feelings of anger if public not following Covid rules.
    Tearful when watching the news.
  5. Marked physiological reactions to internal and external cues that symbolise or resemble an aspect of the trauma event;
    Waking unable to breath.
    Panic going to work.

C ; Persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the traumatic event . One or both of the following ;

  1. Avoidance of distressing memories,thoughts,feelings
    Drinking alcohol
  2. Avoidance of external reminders ; people , conversations and interpersonal situations .
    Unable to work.

D ; Negative alterations in cognition and mood ;
Low self esteem.
Feelings of guilt and responsibility.

E ; Alterations in reactivity and arousal ;
Panicky if her father did not pick up the phone.
Poor sleep.

F ; B,C,and D have lasted longer than a month .

G ; Significant distress and/ or social , occupational or other functional impairment ;
Sharon is significantly distressed and unable to work .

H ; Presentation cannot be attributed to the use of a psychoactive substance , medication or medical condition.
Drinking alcohol is to alleviate her symptoms and not the cause .

Client Reviews

  • Callum says "I have found EMDR therapy to be life-changing, I was initially sceptical of the process but I cannot argue against the results which have been immensely positive for me. I found Frances to be very empathetic and felt listened to throughout the process. This is, without doubt, the best thing I have ever done and my only regret is not doing it sooner."

  • "Frances is a very skilled therapist who supported me to overcome some very complex trauma. She made me feel safe and able to explore my difficulties in a very containing way. I will be forever grateful for my therapy with her and would fully recommend her services."

  • "Since my sessions with Dr Lindon, people close to me have commented that I'm much calmer and much more settled in myself and am now able to handle mistakes and failure and accept them as part of the learning process."

  • "I had the pleasure of being treated by Dr. Lindon over a number of sessions, and the help I received was outstanding. From the very first session I began to notice a difference, and the improvements continued throughout. I was treated with warmth, dignity and compassion, and was made to feel completely comfortable and at-ease throughout. Dr. Lindon is a very genuine and caring lady. Highly recommended,  R. Smith."

  • "With Dr Lindon's help and guidance, I was able to develop strategies that have since helped me deal with stressful situations that I would have previously struggled with and to help me with negative beliefs, thoughts and feelings I've held about myself for several years."

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