A Focused Approach to Trauma Recovery with Integritas Wellness
Learn about their option for intensive treatment to help recovery from birth trauma to help find your way to a peaceful future.
Carolyn Solo, LCSW, and Michaela McDonald, LSW, are the owners and founders of Integritas Wellness and Recovery in Bryn Mawr. The Main Line-based therapy practice is committed to the mission of helping trauma survivors and birth parents “create meaning out of their pasts for a peaceful future.” In addition to trauma survivors and birth parents, the therapists also “assist couples who are experiencing challenges during pregnancy and postpartum feel more connected and confident in their roles as parents and partners.” These goals are achieved specifically through the effective trauma therapy EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). EMDR therapy is a proven way to reduce symptoms of trauma, PTSD, anxiety and depression. “This therapy is focused on processing specific traumatic memories that have turned into problematic systems in the present,” explains Solo. “It helps the brain to process and heal from life-altering events by unlocking stored memories and promoting psychological flexibility. We’ve helped many trauma survivors move forward and live a life free from the burdens of the past.” McDonald is trained in EMDR as well as The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy and is the couples therapist at Integritas.
As mothers with young children themselves—who have both shared that they are birth trauma and postpartum depression survivors—Solo and McDonald empathize with their birth patients regarding the struggles that come along on the parenting journey. Many of their clients are birth parents seeking help with perinatal and maternal mental health issues. One example, Solo shares, are birth parents who have gone through a traumatic birth experience. “Some of these birth parents are still having flashbacks of the experience or feeling a lot of negativity related to the experience,” says Solo. “We work on targeting—sort of working through all the negative associations with that experience—so that in the present you’re not still feeling those effects.” The focus is not only on thinking differently about the experience, but also feeling differently about it, too.
While weekly EMDR therapy sessions are available, Solo also offers an EMDR “intensives” therapy for clients. In EMDR intensives therapy sessions, Solo and her client meet anywhere from three to six hours per day over several days in close succession. “Basically, we do a lot of therapy in a short amount of time,” says Solo. “Traditional weekly therapy and intensives both are effective, but intensives are just much more condensed.” That difference is what is attracting a large following of clients in choosing intensives. Clients who can’t commit a lot of time to therapy whether it be due to not wanting to take time away from being with their family or a demanding work schedule benefit from this approach.
“For some people, weekly therapy appointments feel more overwhelming than supportive,” says Solo. “EMDR intensive sessions are a really good option for those patients to consider.” Solo’s intensives are tailored for clients seeking to heal from traumas or looking to improve their overall wellness. It’s a very structured, goal-oriented approach to therapy done in a compassionate and supportive way. “Clients who are highly motivated and committed to the healing process may benefit the most from an intensive treatment approach,” says Solo. “It’s very much about, let’s work through this traumatic thing so you can get back to your normal life.”
Weekly sessions, however, are a very good option for clients who are interested in EMDR but cannot commit to the time commitment or financial commitment of a large amount of therapy in a short time. Weekly EMDR therapy is also excellent for clients who have several areas that they want to work on, which cannot necessarily be resolved in a few days of an intensive. Clients who are interested in an ongoing supportive therapeutic relationship, as opposed to the shorter duration of an intensive, can reach out to McDonald for weekly hour-long EMDR sessions.
As with all treatment methods, there are some misconceptions about EMDR therapy that Solo says are false. EMDR therapy is not hypnosis. “The client is very much in control of what is happening during the session,” says Solo. “There’s a lot of emphasis on client control of the process and feeling in control.” EMDR is also not dangerous for pregnant people. There is no research to support that claim, according to Solo.
EMDR is not only effective for people dealing with a life-altering trauma. While Solo has worked with clients dealing with everything from the effects of childhood sexual abuse to clients experiencing PTSD from a violent attack, she also has clients who are seeking help dealing with low self esteem or shame about a specific incident in their life. Some clients come looking for help dealing with specific triggers. These triggers may come from their children or partner, interacting with coworkers, or relationships with family members. “Something that triggers you is connected to some earlier experience you’ve had,” says Solo. “If we can figure out what some of the origin experiences are of those triggers, we can work on those and that’s going to reduce the intensity of the trigger in the present.” One helpful way Solo explains EMDR to her patients is that it can be used for “anything stuck that’s causing yuck.”
If you’re still unsure if EMDR is right for you, Solo can make the determination. “I always meet with new clients for a free 30-minute initial consultation to judge if EMDR therapy would be a good fit for them,” says Solo.
Traditional Therapy for Couples
For those clients seeking traditional weekly therapy, Michaela McDonald works with both individuals and couples. While she is trained in EMDR, she also is trained in The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy, a research data-based therapy system that can help couples with anything from excessive arguing to infidelity. The early years of parenting can put a lot of stress on a marriage or relationship and McDonald particularly enjoys working with couples around those issues. “The work Michaela is doing with couples is the perfect complement to the work I’m doing with individuals,” says Solo. “It’s so beneficial to our clients that we offer both individual and couple’s therapy. We want to move all of our clients towards a more peaceful and joyful future.”