“The expert in anything was once a beginner.”
- Helen Hayes
What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based, shockingly productive method of therapy that uses your brain’s natural healing process as the to treat traumatic/impactful experiences. It can bring quick & lasting relief to various mental struggles and pains.
EMDR was originally used to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in war veterans and turns out it's also great at alleviating the thoughts + feelings from other traumatic/upsetting experiences.
You may be surprised on what is actually considered a 'trauma'. I break it down for you here.
How EMDR Therapy Works
Let's say you went through a particularly stressful, disturbing, embarrassing, or traumatic experience.
(This could have happened recently or a long time ago)
Your brain may have become overloaded when it attempted to process and store those memories causing them being stored inefficiently.
('Trapping’ negative feelings and sensations in your mind and nervous system)
Unfortunately, now these memories can be easily reactivated during everyday situations and you may feel 'sent back' to parts of the original event.
(For example, let’s say you were rear ended in a car accident- now you may notice having a bigger than usual emotional response to sitting in traffic or even being in a situation where something distressing is about to happen and you have no control over stopping it.)
Now for the good part- what we can do about it…
With EMDR, we can give your brain an opportunity to re-process that experience in a more effective way this time, significantly reducing or eliminating it’s intensity and impact. This allows the emotions and sensations attached to the memory to no longer be disturbing and to stay in the past rather than imposing themselves into your present thoughts, family life, work life, social life, and view of yourself.
Sounds pretty awesome, huh? I agree.
To make this possible, we use BLS (Bi-Lateral Stimulation), which is essentially doing something that activates the hemispheres of your brain back and forth
(by moving your eyes, using audio, or tapping).
Similar to how REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep works
Enough reading, I created a more thorough explanation for you here:
Is EMDR Right For Me?
If something happened in your life that has lead you to feel and think in ways that are intrusive or unwanted then you would likely benefit from EMDR.
It is highly recommended as a treatment approach for those who have experienced a specific event or set of events that have impacted them.
People commonly seek EMDR therapy to treat (but is not limited to) the following experiences:
- Rape and sexual assaults*
- Near death experiences*
- Witnessing an accident/death/abuse/assault*
- Committed or was a victim to a crime*
- Scary medical experiences*
- Disturbing memories*
- Natural disasters*
- Repeated replaying of a bad memory*
- Being molested as a child*
- Humiliating experiences*
- Abuse (physical, emotional)
- Death of someone close
- War experiences
- Serious Illness or diagnosis
- Feeling incompetent
- Being Bullied
- Repeated unhealthy behaviors
- Physical Injuries
- Feelings/fear of rejection
- Performance anxiety
- Irrational fears
- Parental abandonment
- Troubling memories from an unhealthy relationship
- Other hurtful or difficult to think about experiences
* = my areas of specialization
How much will I have to open up about what I've been through?
Unlike talk therapy, EMDR does not require you to share the details of what you’d like to work on if you choose not to. Again, we are using your brain as the tool so if there are things that you do not wish to say aloud then that is perfectly okay, as long as your mind is there briefly. During the processing you will likely get glimpses of the event so we will do whatever you need to prepare you for this. I am trained to help you through any difficult moments, keeping you emotionally safe, in the present moment, and the glimpses typically come and go quickly. I think of it as digging in to remove a splinter- it may hurt a little to remove it but once it's cleared then the healing can begin. For every moment that is difficult for you in session is a productive moment for the brain so it lessens with time and therapy ends when that event no longer brings you distress (sound impossible? It’s not).
If you’re hesitant to ‘go there’ and think about memories that are difficult to think about then please do not let that be what stops you. I can work with you on this and together we can get to a place where it feels more possible. This process is different than other therapies and my primary goal is to keep you safe throughout the entire process. We can do this.
How Long Will This Take?
Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. (EMDR Institute)
If you have a single experience that you would like to work on then it can be resolved in as little as a few sessions of processing (we will build up some coping skills first). Using ART on a single event can take even less.
If you have a set of experiences (such as recurring abuse or bullying) it will, of course, take more time.
In all cases, emotional safety is top priority so in the first sessions and throughout treatment we will build a sufficient ‘tool box’, solidifying confidence in your coping abilities.
Does EMDR Actually Work?
EMDR Institute reports that some of the studies show:
84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.
100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions.
77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy.” (EMDR institute, Inc)
I get it. I like to understand as much as I can before starting something too, that's why I try to include as much information as I can to help out those with similar minds. Here are some more places to find answers to curious questions.
If you still have some, please feel free to email me and ask, I'm a certified EMDR therapist and love explaining things.
Even more information about EMDR
If you would like a productive method that reduces your unwanted emotions while teaching you plenty of coping skills then schedule a session and we can talk about how this process can look for you.