What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it is an interactive model of therapy that helps you reduce and replace your symptoms of psychological and emotional stress. EMDR is so effective because it helps you heal from your painful life experiences by addressing the root cause, not just the symptoms.
How can EMDR help me?
EMDR can be a powerful tool for many different issues and concerns that most of us experience at different times in our lives. EMDR is used only by specially trained licensed counselors, and is helpful for any of the following:
- unexpected life changes or stressors
- trauma or PTSD
- panic attacks
- grief and loss
- medical/hospital procedures and experiences
- fears and phobias
- low self-esteem
- guilt and shame
- childhood issues
- family contact
- car accidents
- natural disasters
EMDR can help you by facilitating your brain and body’s natural tendency to heal itself and make meaning. In the wake of traumatic experiences, people often experience strong emotions like anxiety, anger, guilt, and shame and develop negative beliefs about themselves and the world that are not true. Some beliefs might include, “I’m not good enough”, “I am out of control”, “I can’t trust others”. By the end of the process, these beliefs are replaced with adaptive beliefs the client generates.
“Desensitizing” allows your mind and body to become less reactive to the original memory and subsequent triggers and begin to create new meanings of the event with new, more positive emotions. EMDR will not make you forget your past but it can help turn down the volume and intensity of the experience so you are free from it’s effects.
“Reprocessing” is what happens when you begin to experience new feelings regarding the memory of the event and develop new beliefs about yourself that replace the maladaptive and untrue beliefs you previously held as a result of the traumatic experience.
How does EMDR work?
Bi-lateral stimulation, or BLS, can include eye movement, tapping, pulsing, or sound. What we believe happens when the brain is introduced to BLS is that it stimulates a part of the brain called the thalamus which is responsible for processing sensory information and relaying it to other parts of the brain to be integrated. This happens with all things we perceive and experience, including highly emotional experiences. During a distressful or painful event, this part of the brain is activated, and begins processing things as dangerous, scary, and unsafe. This gets relayed to the memory part of the brain and gets integrated that way. All of us, have experienced trauma and often get triggered to react as if we were reliving that traumatic event.
During EMDR, the therapist introduces BLS in order to activate the thalamic area of the brain. Now that you are in a safe, calm, and in a therapeutic environment and relationship, your brain and body will begin to heal itself by forming new meaning to the memory, new positive feelings, and beliefs about yourself and the world. In a sense, you are rewriting the narrative of your story to reflect what is true; that you are worthy, valuable, and strong. How amazing is that?
EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 and has since been approved by the Department of Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense, SAMHSA, World Health Organization, and American Psychological Association as an effective method for treating PTSD and trauma. For more information on EMDR, also visit EMDR International Association (www.emdria.org).