In order to provide a tangible sense of how I practice, I would like to share accounts volunteered by clients of mine. It is important to keep in mind that every client’s experience in therapy is different and the outcome of treatment can vary greatly. These clients expressed hope that their stories might assist others in understanding what is possible through EMDR therapy and the other treatment approaches I regularly utilize. I do not solicit my clients to provide testimonials – rather I offer an open invitation to all of my clients to share what they believe may benefit others in the decision to pursue treatment. I am greatly appreciative of their willingness to share their experiences.
From a Woman Who Experienced Severe Domestic Abuse
During seven years of my early adult life, from age 19 through 26, I was the victim of intense verbal, mental and physical abuse by my partner. By the time I was able to escape him, I was paranoid, anxious, depressed and barely functioning. I knew I needed help and was desperate to return some normalcy to my shattered life. Through a series of coincidences, I started reading Trauma and Recovery by Judith Herman. It completely changed the way I saw myself, because it was the first time I truly understood that I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). From there, I knew I needed not just talk therapy but trauma specific therapy. I found Susie Morgan who is certified in EMDR, a therapy designed for people who suffer from PTSD. By this time, I had met with about six other therapists, each one saying the same thing; that my best bet was to learn to live with and manage my PTSD. Susie, on the other hand was enthusiastic about restoring my true self and healing my trauma. She also was not intimidated by the intensity of my story.
When I was 19, I fell madly in love with a sociopath. He was charming, smart, sophisticated and acted as if he wanted to give me the world. Slowly, he started to break me down in order to control me. The process was extremely gradual, and after about two years I was completely and utterly under his control. He controlled when and what I ate, where I was at all times, and eventually started sleep depriving me to make me even more of a robot. If and when he did catch me sleeping, he would strangle me to wake me up. To keep me in fear, he would rape me, put cigars out on me, or beat other women in front of me. Eventually he was selling me to other men for sexual favors. The verbal and physical abuse changed me into a scared, submissive girl who was walking on eggshells constantly. The psychological torture was almost too much to bear. After seven years, I knew I was at my breaking point; if I didn’t escape somehow, I was going to end up dead or just plain crazy.
Starting therapy with Susie was refreshing compared to my previous therapy experiences. She gently understood the magnitude of pain I was living with and softly challenged me to stay inspired to heal. Each and every session she met me where I needed her to, and we worked together as a solid team, even on days when I bluntly told her I did not want to be there. EMDR is difficult to describe. I went with an open mind and constantly asked if I was doing it “right”. Susie was an excellent coach, helping to understand when I needed to, but also pushed me to just go with the process when that was necessary. After about two months working with her, I started to notice subtle shifts. My pessimism almost would not let me believe I was actually starting to heal. I kept going to see her, and the positive effects started to snowball. After fifteen months of hard work together, my quality of life is beyond my wildest dreams, because I believed I would never be able to live like a normal person. As I sit and reflect, I am amazed to be able to say that I am done being haunted by memories of my past, and I believe I have successfully completed trauma therapy.
We are learning to live again, and, for many of us, it is the first time.
– Emily Autumn
From a Woman Abused as a Child, Who Had Developed a Life-Long Eating Disorder
An average day in my life before treatment: 3am wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, berate myself for all the food I had eaten the previous day, make disparaging remarks to self such as: you are such a disgusting pig, you have no self-control you have no discipline, you don’t deserve to be happy.
Upon waking up in the morning I would walk past the mirror repulsed by my own reflection, continue litany of self-disapproving remarks. Promise myself I would not overeat today and become exceedingly anxious over what food might have control over me today. Drink only tea in an effort to “start day right”. Refrain from eating until 12 or 1pm with the promise of a healthy lunch.
When it came time to make lunch I would have eaten several cookies or some other quick snack because I was excessively hungry. Eat a full lunch, even though I was already full to bursting from the snacks prior to lunch. Feel self-hatred and loathing for over eating. Around 3pm when the kids got home I would eat snacks with them and then finish whatever they didn’t finish, I would eat fast, so others didn’t notice and before I changed my mind, cramming down as much food as possible in secret. The food had complete control over me, I was absolutely powerless over food and I constantly felt like a failure because of it.
At dinnertime, I would have a glass of wine while cooking and have “little bites” of everything I was making. I would end up refilling my wine at least once during dinner. I would sit down to dinner with the family completely full and try not eat, this would typically end with me picking off my family’s dinner plates and then me getting up for a small plate of food. Just a little bite, I would tell myself and I would end up eating a whole serving or more!
I made dessert every night and insist on serving everyone. When I served them desert I would take massive bites of the ice cream and the hot brownies, or make huge sundaes for everyone and secretly eat ice cream or whatever desert was available, so no one would know how epoch my binges were. Then I would go out to the living room with the rest with another glass of wine.
If I knew I was going to be home alone, it was a planned binge/purge session. I would go to the store buy a carton of Ben & Jerry’s, twix, butterfingers, Zingers, donuts and a whole white cake. I would cram as much of it as possible down my throat as fast as possible. I would surpass full to the point of feeling like I was going to explode. Instead of exploding I would then purge as much of the binge as possible before anyone got home. I would then take great pains to clean everything up around the bathroom and myself so no one knew what I was secretly doing. Because my career is in fitness, teaching both kids and adults, I felt like a complete fraud for not taking care of my body and having this dirty little secret. When the family would get home I would then eat a dinner with them, even after promising myself I wouldn’t! Food ruled my life. I would eat again with the family and repeat the whole cycle from above with the wine and desert.
I had been to 5 therapists and worked with 4 of them extensively and never had the results I have had with EMDR and the Feeling State Addiction Protocol that Susie used in treating me. I assumed I would always have to live a hellish existence and that eventually I would lose my husband and kids due to the negative effects my self-loathing had on them.
Part of my treatment was to write out the top ten worst events in my life and the top ten best memories. She had me list all my traumas, most of which involved neglect and violent abuse during childhood. I was surrounded by exceedingly violent people, with a sadistic mother and an alcoholic father who was emotionally absent, I was attacked by my mother for the first time at 5 years old, I was raped, & became pregnant by it at 17, I had witnessed my mother being raped and beaten as well. I was completely unprotected by my parents and relatives as a child.
All of my best memories involved some type of food. Susie taught me that the food was actually working like a drug for me, an addiction to the feeling states that my brain had learned to associate with binge eating. To feel good and to cope with the painful parts of my life, I felt I required food. The Feeling State Protocol began by us identifying each of the feeling states I had associated with binge eating, they included Love, Comfort (Everything Will Be Okay Now), Free Reign (Nothing’s Off Limit’s), and Sneaking.
We went through every single binge food I could ever remember starting with the first time I binged on it. At first I thought there was no way I could remember, but once we began the process the memories just start coming back, sometimes flooding back so quickly I could hardly tell her of them all. For instance, I would recall the experience of eating white cake and the feelings that I was hoping to get from it like relief, or happiness or calmness. I would then watch as she waved the blue light across my field of vision bringing up all the feelings I had when eating the white cake. For me, it was quite vivid, as if I were right back in that same instance eating the cake, however, what began to happen is that my body would feel begin feelings nauseous and disgusting as I came to realize that eating so much cake made me physically ill and didn’t help to solve the problem. One by one we addressed all the foods and one by one they lost their power over me something I NEVER thought I would be capable of in my entire life!
After we did the binge foods, we then targeted the specific traumas using standard EMDR. Susie had me bring to mind the negative belief about myself I had garnered from the trauma. We would then choose what I wished to be true when I recalled the event in the future. Susie would have me bring to mind the event, all the feelings surrounding the event and the feelings produced in my body and rate the physical and emotional activation level from zero to ten for intensity. I would then watch the light on the end of her pointer as it moved back and forth across my field of vision and she would ask me to just focus on the feelings in my body and the memories. She would stop every so often and ask me what came up. While engaged in the process I felt completely coherent, but I could recall the event with amazing clarity. Since most of my trauma occurred in my childhood, it felt as if I was traveling back in time as an adult and I could see things with a more mature perspective. We repeated the process until I had no more activation left in me whatsoever. It was difficult in that the memories were horrible, but I could plainly discriminate that the people I was surrounded by were sadistic, unhealthy and very far from nurturing. Now I have no activation in my body or mind whatsoever and it was beautiful to realize that I never did anything wrong! I realize that I am a good person and I have a right to happiness. I no longer hate my body or have negative beliefs that I’m somehow inherently bad. I feel worthy and deserving of love and happiness. I feel confident in my body, which I could never have imagined before counseling.
I am thrilled to report that I now have complete control over food and it is so incredibly liberating! I never thought this degree of happiness would be possible for me, I thought I was “different” and tarnished and tainted by my horrible childhood. I am the last person I would ever expect to be writing these words, I am healthy and happy. Susie has been able to clear all my anxiety, feelings of worthlessness, help me to love my body and I no longer fear food. I would never consider a binge or purge today. I can easily have candy and deserts in front of me and make a rational decision as to whether or not I will partake of them. I now treat my body to healthful foods in amounts appropriate for me. There is an incredible freedom to my life now. I can pursue all my dreams because I have a renewed sense of self-confidence. My hope is that if you have disordered eating, PTSD or anxiety you will give EMDR and the Feeling State Addiction Protocol a chance to change your life and ALL of your relationships. I am experiencing love and satisfaction at a level I never knew was possible. Thank you so much Susie & Sophie!
From a Pre-Teen Struggling with Anxiety, Depression, and Gender Identity – About Having Sophie, the Therapy Dog, in Sessions
Sophie, (AKA: Sophie Dog) helps me to calm down when I’m angry. She also makes me laugh. When I’m at Susie’s working on my problems, sometimes it can be hard and having Sophie around makes it easier.
& From His Mother
I’m writing this letter regarding Susie Morgan’s dog Sophie. In my son’s circumstances Sophie has helped him by being a calming force when he is in therapy. My son feels very comfortable coming to therapy knowing that Sophie is always going to be there. At times when he has been feeling sad or frustrated, he has put his focus on Sophie and is laughing in no time at all. When my son has had a hard time opening up, Susie will take Sophie for a walk outside with him and he will just start talking.
For me, Sophie is just a calming spirit in the room. She has such a great personality and I really feel she gets to know each of Susie’s clients personally. My son and I are already attached to Sophie, it is so wonderful to come into the waiting room and having Sophie come out of the office to get my son for his appointment. Sophie is definitely contributing to my son’s therapy.
* Sophie has retired after over 11 years as my sidekick in the office. Her presence has helped keep those traumatized by the past in the here and now while they healed – and her insistence on the importance of someone rubbing her belly has brought laughter through so many tears. Sophie has trained her understudy well – and while she has big paws to fill – Sprout is ready!
We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
– D.H. Lawrence
From a Burn Victim, Who Has Struggled With Alcoholism
One week ago I sat in a rental home in Bodega Bay, vacationing with my sister. It was cold. I lit a fire in the fireplace. No big deal, right? Something anyone would do? Not me. Not since January 17, 2009. January 17, 2009 a cooking fire left me with burns to over 20% of my body: right hand, arm, and torso primarily. I lived alone and was not found for 2 days. I was not to survive. Hospitalized for five weeks, half of which I spent in a coma, I was released with no use of my hand or arm and scars that ran so deep, even the best surgeon and physical therapist were unable to help.
At the insistence of family and friends, I reluctantly contacted multiple therapists. Susie Morgan was the only one to return my call. I signed on with her not knowing what to expect, and quite honestly without much hope. I did so because Sophie (a beautiful lab mix) participates in the sessions. The universe works in mysterious ways. Susie introduced me to a process called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). She explained that EMDR has been used in PTSD with wonderful results. I didn’t care. I only wanted some small moment in time where I was free from the night and day dreams of the fire. I wanted to cook a meal without feeling sick. I wanted to forget.
Susie wasted no time and within weeks of signing on, I was LOVING the process. As we worked through the memories of the fire and its aftermath, I found myself counting on sessions with Susie to quiet my mind. In the past 40+ years, I have been unable to find any relief from an overactive, chattering mind. Nothing, that is, but alcohol. I am a recovering alcoholic and have been an active member of AA. Still, the mind chatters. We discussed the application of EMDR in recovery from addiction. Today, I wonder how, after all the recovery, the rehabs, and the pain, why have I not heard of this? I realize that there are as many approaches to recovery as there are addicts, and I would never presume to know what will work for another, but for me, EMDR is driving my recovery.
EMDR is a process that one must experience to understand. I trust in it, and yet am not entirely convinced I understand it. Not that I care. Today I have no fear of fire. I have no nightmares. I have few thoughts of drinking. I look forward to sessions with Susie and Sophie. I have found the application of EMDR useful in so many ways: trauma from the fire, addiction, quieting the mind, and now, sorting through the memories and traumas of my past.
From a Young Woman with a History of Complex Trauma and Bipolar II Disorder
I remember my first call to Susie, it was the beginning of my Winter quarter in college (February 2008). I was driving back from my second visit to Kaiser where I tried to see someone who could help me for the second time. I was in a puddle of tears and felt hopeless when they told me that they don’t “deal” with long term issues and that they only took care of the suicidal. So as I was driving back to school, not knowing what to do, I remembered my friend telling me about this great therapist with this comfy couch and a therapy dog that she knows. I immediately got her number and called Susie, leaving a message full of tears. She called me back and calmed me down and set that first appointment. At that point, I had no idea about the methods that Susie used. This process called EMDR sounded more like some magical nonsense to me, but I felt that I really had no other options or hope in anything else so I decided to give it a go.
What I came to find was that it absolutely is magical, in the most realistic way. I have so many twists and turns in my life that are so intertwined and connected in this complex mass that I don’t believe that I could ever have just talked it out. Being able to bring up those traumatic memories with all those emotions built in while then having that rational part of your brain stimulated to simply understand and come to terms with those events have completely turned my world upside down. I turned my traumas into understandings of my past and my present. They no longer control me.
I have past traumas that include being raised by my bipolar/compulsive-lying/brainwashing/man-obsessed mother with her psychological and emotional abusiveness, step-sibling molestation from my mom’s second husband’s son, (between both of my parents) I have been through 3 divorces, lived with a controlling alcoholic step-mom, I was held by my neck at age 7 by one of mom’s boyfriends while she stood there with content, grew up with an abusive older brother with no help from either parent and to top it all off, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 2 after a close encounter with what would have been a suicide attempt. So going in to see Susie was the beginning of a long road ahead, but at no point did she ever give up on me. I always felt this confidence in her that I would be ok. And through this magical therapy called EMDR I can now say after 2 ½ years of intensive, look me straight in the eyes work with Susie, I feel truly alive. I can’t fully express the change in myself from when I went in to see Susie ‘til now. I came in through her doors as what I would explain as a fragile, unstable, mentally screwed up puppet of a living thing into what I will describe now as a strong, confident, balanced, talented, beautiful and close to fearless individual. I feel like I can take on the world!
I also feel the need to stress the importance of taking and staying on medication as someone who is bipolar. Side by side, while doing EMDR with Susie, I was working on getting the proper medications and eventually got to my proper doses and mix that suit my needs. It took a lot of patience to reach the right levels because nobody can 100% predict what your brain and body will need. I believe it took me 2 close to suicide attempts, almost being sent to the hospital, an emergency pickup by my dad and a whole awful lot of negative, depressing, and truly hurtful self loathing to finally get there. It even took me longer to realize that the addition of a birth control stabilized my mood throughout the month so that the natural hormone level changes wouldn’t mess with the medication that was stabilizing my mood (that was the missing puzzle piece).
I learned so much about myself, my brain, and my body. The best part was that I won the battle. I decided that I wouldn’t be my mother who would never admit there is something wrong with her; she would never take medication to better herself. I had to take that step up and own my flaws. I came to understand that the brain is just as much a part of the body as the heart or any other part that is treated with medication because up until then I didn’t believe in medication. But I have become a believer. I have consistently been taking my medication since I started them almost 4 years ago now and have never felt saner. I don’t feel numb. I still have my emotions but appropriate ones. It gives me the confidence to determine the difference and become self aware to the point of monitoring myself now. The truth of the matter is, bipolar will always be a part of me, it won’t heal or go away, I have just learned how to manage it and not let it control me. But in order for that to happen I know that it is and will always be necessary to continue taking those pills every day. I just look at it as taking my daily multi-vitamin, but for my brain. My biggest fear was that being bipolar would define me as crazy. But accepting it and managing it make it possible for it not to.
I can’t speak highly enough of Susie and EMDR (the combination is unstoppable). But in the end, it is up to you, it has to be you who jumps in that saddle, takes hold of those reins and face it all head on. It is hard, draining and an emotional process, but it works, oh boy does it work. ~ Trust. Hope. Live.