What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward 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. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
How is EMDR therapy different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue or completing homework between sessions. Rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, this therapy modality allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Similar to Lifespan Integration therapy, EMDR helps to unlock the nervous system that stores painful memories in a less distressing way, and allows the mind and body to integrate new and healthier experiences. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, symptoms of distress are relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.
What conditions can be treated using EMDR therapy?
EMDR is generally recommended for people living with overwhelming traumatic memories and symptoms of PTSD. You may find it particularly helpful if you have a hard time sharing the trauma you’ve experienced with others, including therapists. In the case that talking about a traumatic experience causes intolerable amounts of panic or distress, EMDR has proven to provide relief from many of the physical symptoms that once limited clients from being able to fully process the traumatic event, and thus heal.
What can I expect during an EMDR session?
During EMDR, you’ll be asked to focus on a specific negative event. As you do, the EMDR therapist will begin a set of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps. Focusing on the traumatic event while experiencing bilateral stimulation (BLS), causes your eyes to move back and forth rapidly, which allows your brain to reprocess the trauma. After each set of movements, you’ll talk about what came to mind during that session. Your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and images regarding the event may change. This is an indication of the reprocessing that is taking place. Eventually, the traumatic events or distressing emotion will become less disturbing.
How effective is EMDR therapy?
You might feel a little skeptical of the idea that making eye movements when thinking about a traumatic experience can somehow help ease painful memories. While experts aren’t entirely certain exactly why the approach works, some believe it’s effective because recalling distressing events may feel less emotionally upsetting when you aren’t giving those memories your full attention. To put it another way, the bilateral stimulation (BLS) used in EMDR gives you something to focus on as you access painful memories and unwanted thoughts. This helps dim the intensity of your memory, allowing you space to process it without an overwhelming psychological response.
If you are still unsure if EMDR therapy is for you, please reach out to our friendly staff today to schedule a brief phone consultation.