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From Northridge to Now: Seeking Help for PTSD

Triggered by earthquakes and traumas across 2019, Southern Californians are reaching out for help with PTSD from a shaky experience in the past.

It’s been 26 years since the Northridge earthquake struck Southern California, brining with it an emotional aftershock reminding many of past trauma. That was on January 17, 1994 at 4:31 a.m., when an earthquake measuring 6.7 on the Richter scale hit L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. Apartment complexes crumbled, freeways buckled, gas mains exploded in flames, and more. The devastation was tremendous, with an estimated cost of over $20 billion in damages, and $49 billion in economic losses .

The horrific event took the lives of at least 57 people. Over 9,000 were injured. And today, many people are still feeling it, in ways that take them by surprise.

Invisible damage

At some point in their lives, about 7 or 8 out of every 100 people in the U.S. will suffer from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) —an intense, upsetting psychiatric mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event. Whereas ASD (acute stress disorder) can be diagnosed within the first 30 days of a trauma, a diagnosis can’t be made until PTSD symptoms have lasted for at least that long. Many such diagnoses have been made: about 8 million adults in America will suffer from PTSD during any given year.

I’ve suffered from PTSD myself, sustained from events during my childhood, which didn’t help me much as someone growing up during the time of the Northridge earthquake. I was only eight years old, and living only two miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, when the world I knew violently shook itself. Why did I have to get dressed in such a hurry? Because an aftershock could happen any second, my father explained. And when an aftershock immediately rumbled through our house, like a jarring stage effect he cued with his words, the anxiety that ensued was one of many I couldn’t forget. I witnessed firsthand the physical destruction around me, our family didn’t have water or power for a week (we bathed in bottled water), and I felt the pressure of urgency suddenly assigned to normal, everyday tasks.

A truck passing, the quiver of a parking structure, any bass-heavy noise, the rattling of a window…so many normal, innocuous sensations of modern life triggered and terrified me for decades, well into my 20s, when I finally sought help for my disruptive, unprocessed memories with EMDR therapy.

The Aftershocks

After my holiday vacation, I returned to my office to find a flood of voicemail messages. People were seeking help with their PTSD symptoms, triggered by the recent Saugus High School Shooting and various other significant trauma events in 2019.

Earthquakes, like any jolt or shock, have the potential to unlock someone’s PTSD, even if the symptoms have lain dormant for years. Trauma sufferers are already primed for it; it only takes the right, and unfortunate, key to open a box of unwanted fears, flashbacks and reactions. As an example of post-earthquake PTSD, an object that normally brings joy, a framed picture of a loved one, suddenly becomes something to fear: a fragile pane of glass that can crash to the floor without warning, shattering loudly into sharp and dangerous shards.

Whether the recent quakes trigger recollections of the Northridge disaster or any other situation fraught with fear and helplessness, a PTSD sufferer should seek help as soon as possible rather than wait for the symptoms to subside. Earthquakes and other traumatic events don’t wait for preparation. Fortunately, there are ways to get help.

For the last three decades, millions of people have found healing from PTSD with Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR. By targeting key memories and working with a client’s thoughts, sensations and eye movements, EMDR treatment helps individuals empower their natural inclinations toward mental and emotional healing.

Will EMDR work for me? 

If you’re asking yourself “Will EMDR work for me?” know that several international associations and reviews have recognized EMDR therapy as an effective treatment for PTSD. And post-earthquake PTSD is something you want to deal with before another quake literally rocks your world…physically, mentally and emotionally.

Numerous randomized control trials have supported the use of EMDR for a wide range of trauma presentations. And I’ve shared in the past how EMDR changed my life , as the treatment that finally worked for me and my own PTSD. Now, I’m a certified professional who provides EMDR therapy and knows how EMDR works.

More than 25 years ago, EMDR was not as well known or widespread as it is today, but now we have an opportunity and ability to heal trauma that once seemed impossible. It’s never too late to get help with unresolved trauma and help is only a phone call away.

About Your Santa Clarita Therapist

Kristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist and an EMDRIA approved Consultant with a private practice in Valencia. She is an expert in EMDR who works on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, promote performance enhancement and address mental health concerns related to medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.


About Kristina's Practice, EMDR

Following a Leader: Saying Goodbye to Francine Shapiro


When the groundbreaking psychologist who created EMDR therapy left us in June, she left behind not only a revolutionary method of psychotherapy, but the ongoing inspiration to give our best through research and dedication.

It was like any other Tuesday. I was on my lunch break, in between clients, standing in a café waiting to pick up my order. Scrolling through email on my phone, one particular subject line caught my eye: “Mourning Francine Shapiro.”

She can’t have passed away, I thought.

Then as I opened the email my heart sank further. I couldn’t believe I was reading of Francine Shapiro’s passing. As a pioneer in the field of mental health through the creation of her groundbreaking EMDR therapy, this insightful, intelligent, forward-thinking woman has made an impact, to better the lives of so many, including mine.

First Encounter

My first encounter with Francine took place years ago, back when I’d only heard bits and pieces about what EMDR therapy is and does during my exposure to several different treatment orientations. Among them, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” barely registered on my radar. In fact, I recall rolling my eyes during an EMDR presentation as a student.

That changed a few years later. After grad school, I attended the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference. I was interested in learning about a particular approach, but after sitting disappointedly through a weak presentation I decided to go to Francine Shapiro’s just down the hall. I peeked through the door, seats were available, and I thought, “Why not?”

As Francine went through various diagnoses throughout the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, presenting the quality of research I’d missed during the lecture I’d just left, I was struck by how genuine she was. She was straightforward, practical and not at all about ego. I immediately got the impression she didn’t believe she was better than anyone else (in contrast to many of her peers), she didn’t have to; her confidence was borne by fact. She knew the proof of her findings was in the pudding.

Now, years later, I know not only how EMDR works, but how it’s worked for me. Like many, I’ve been through some *stuff*. I was someone who dealt with long-standing trauma since the age of five. And while I’d experienced a wide range of therapies, some more helpful than others, nothing seemed as promising as what Francine Shapiro and her revolutionary new approach presented. I wondered, “Can EMDR help me?”

Doing the work

I went to the EMDRIA database, to find out what the therapy’s international association could offer (which is a lot). I found an EMDR therapist near me and decided to go for sessions. I’d been dealing with a romantic breakup at the time, and not very well.

The therapist told me that most people can get past a breakup in three reprocessing sessions. Together, we did one reprocessing session per month and at the end of three months, I actually felt “over” the breakup. Grateful as I was, I still had my doubts: Maybe I didn’t really love the guy…maybe three months was all I needed to grieve…

I wasn’t dissuaded, but I wasn’t quite convinced, either, that this was a top-tier approach to therapy. And even though I knew I had a lot of underlying trauma, I still didn’t feel ready to do the work. I met with the therapist for three more months when I was at a coffee shop one day and something triggered me. The PTSD which had dogged me for years suddenly resurfaced.

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My symptoms hadn’t been present for a while, but my unconscious was sending me a gift…an OPPORTUNITY for genuine healing and I knew this was a make-or-break moment. I had enough presence of mind to know that this was the time to make a choice: I took a leap of faith with my own EMDR therapist and began working on bigger, scarier and deeper issues, and within six months, we eradicated my symptoms of PTSD.

I’m now a firm believer in what EMDR does.

Life, livelihood and leadership

It wasn’t long before I decided this was something I wanted to specialize in; after experiencing how EMDR changed my life, I had to go about learning how EMDR therapy works. And today, I’m an EMDR therapist, one of 6,500 certified through EMDRIA. I know, from first-hand experience, how EMDR sessions can improve one’s quality of living, thinking, coping, performance and long-term achievement. I’ve seen it in myself and I see it in my clients.

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Worldwide, the ‘pudding’ is rich: studies have shown that three 90-minute EMDR sessions will yield 85%-100% remission of single-trauma PTSD. With 12 or more sessions, combat veterans and other multiple trauma victims experience similar success. And because EMDR therapy does not rely on detailed, sometimes painful recollections, it has proven effective in treating patients of all ages, from all walks of life.

It all started with Francine Shapiro.

It’s hard to articulate the deep sadness I felt at hearing of her loss, a grief shared by those who knew her, were mentored by her, benefited from her work. She was a true leader who inspired so many to find their rightful place in the world, a goal that might have at one time seemed out of reach, obscured as it was by confusion and trauma.

I’ve always honored the responsibility of my work, but Francine’s passing adds another dimension to this sense of duty. In her absence, others must lead.

In her own words, Dr. Shapiro urged the EMDR community to keep moving forward:

“I want to repeat the same thing I have said for years. There is so much we have done, but so much to do. Anyone who cares to, can open the treatment room doors in a way that can really make an impact. Documenting your outcomes and sharing it is ‘research.’ Research is not just about proving to others. It is a way to guide each one of us to establish the best practices. It is about staying on the right road.”

For Francine, the trajectory was clear: the ‘right road’ is the true course to helping others. And I hope to honor Francine’s work by finding my own way to expand upon it to better the world.

Thank you Francine for your contribution and your legacy. It is truly a privilege to have met you and to grow and learn in the astonishing, life-changing gift you left us.

About Your Santa Clarita Therapist

Santa Clarita therapist, Valencia therapist, emdr therapist, trauma therapist, trauma specialist, Santa Clarita PTSD therapist, therapist for women, therapist specializing in anxiety, therapist specializing in depression, suicidal thoughtsKristina de Bree is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) in the state of California and an EMDRIA certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist with a private practice in Valencia. She focuses on helping individuals build, mend and develop healthy relationships and authentic connections with others and with themselves, and as a Valencia EMDR therapist, she is specially qualified to treat trauma, promote performance enhancement and address mental health concerns related to medical illness, right here in Santa Clarita. Kristina believes that the core of every working relationship should be built on trust, authenticity and quality. She brings a deep value and care for the patient experience, believing that change is made through relationships that are trusting, caring and safe.