For decades it was believed that trauma based emotional pain requires a long time to heal. Through EMDR we can see that the mind can heal from psychological trauma in much the same way the body recovers from physical trauma. Just as the brain sends messages to a part of the body that needs to heal, the brain sends healing messages to the memories that are causing us pain.
What Exactly is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a form of mental health therapy used to relieve psychological stress after a traumatic event. It enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. It is an effective treatment for trauma, complex trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Our Brain On Trauma
The brain’s information processing system naturally wants us to have good mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. EMDR removes the block to healing.
Once the block is removed, healing resumes. What we now know is the brain has a complex system to process and store memories in the brain. The brain has a way of placing those memories that we do not need in our full consciousness, into a storage for memories to stay in the past. With trauma, our brain can sometime freeze the memory in our current consciousness and not let it move to the past, where it belongs. EMDR can unfreeze the memory and allow it to go into storage. Memories never go away, but we now know how to put them in their place!
By understanding what happens in our brain during trauma, we can now find ways to keep memories from flooding into our lives when we don’t need or want them. EMDR is effective because you practice recalling your emotionally upsetting memories, but not giving it your full attention. This means you can be exposed to the memories or thoughts without having strong psychological or physiological responses. Once we start the process, our system seems eager to work through memories and reactions that have been held in a disturbed or traumatic state.
Over time, this technique is believed to lessen the impact that the memories or thoughts have on you. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. EMDR therapy is not limited to simply taking symptoms away. It addresses the past, present and future. The goal is to allow the person to achieve a complete state of emotional health
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR was developed by a researcher who noticed that when she looked from side to side, she was able to process her own disturbing memories more easily. The eye movement helps us “move” the traumatic memories from the emotional brain, where it feels like it’s still happening in the present moment, to long term memory where it can no longer hurt you.
Will EMDR Work for Me?
Well that is a great question! If you have experienced traumas in the past you may have symptoms which can leave you feeling like you are powerless over difficult and painful memories, experiencing really big emotions that take over at the drop of the hat, being on high alert, avoiding people, places, and things so you won’t be triggered, and feelings of being out of control. Here’s a short list of some things that you may be suffering with, in which EMDR may help:
If you have recurring memories of past events that interrupt your daily life.
If you have experienced or witnessed a life threatening event.
If you have experienced disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, and flood.
If you have witnessed a car accident.
WHY DO EMDR?
The bottom line is that you deserve to have happiness and fulfilling relationships. Most people who chose to do EMDR are tired of the past ruining their present life. They are tired of struggling with overwhelming emotions and triggers to the point that it is interfering with their quality of life. If you feel like you are reliving traumatic events over and over again, then EMDR might be the key to putting the past back where it belongs.
What does EMDR Treatment Look Like?
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Each phase takes more than one session, so be prepared to take at least 12 sessions to work through a disturbing memory. Here is an explanation of the 8 stages:
Phase 1: History and treatment planning
Your therapist will first review your history and decide where you are in the treatment process. This evaluation includes talking about your trauma while noticing and identifying specific potential traumatic memories to treat.
Phase 2: Preparation
In this phase, you learn several different ways to cope with the emotional or psychological stress you’re experiencing. These skills are designed to protect you as work on the traumatic memories can be very hard emotionally. This phase is also about gaining trust and feeling safe with your therapist.
Phase 3: Assessment
During the third phase of EMDR treatment, your therapist will identify the specific memories that will be targeted. They will work to help you identify and all the possible triggers (such as the physical sensations that are stimulated when you concentrate on an event) for each target memory.
Phases 4-7: Treatment
In these phases you will then begin to treat your targeted memories. These sessions centered around using the EMDR techniques to begin the processing and desensitizing those disturbing memories. The most used technique in this phase has to do with getting your eyes to move back and forth, side to side.
During these sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements. This phase of EMDR therapy may be exceptionally triggering. If you become distressed, your therapist will help bring you back to the present before moving on to another traumatic memory.
Phase 8: Evaluation
In the final phase, you’ll be asked to evaluate your progress after these sessions. This phase is the time to reflect on the hard work you have done, as well as assessing any issues that may have been missed during treatment.
Where do I start?
If you think EMDR therapy is right for you, give a call and we can answer your questions. You can call us at the number below to use the form below to send us an email.