Finally Get Unstuck From Your Past
- Are you struggling to recover from a traumatic experience such as an accident, disaster, assault or injury?
- Have you experienced abuse or neglect?
- Do you find it difficult to trust others, or feel fearful of rejection by others?
- Do you feel “on edge”, easily triggered, or “on alert”?
- Have you used substances such as alcohol, smoking, or food to soothe or numb your pain?
Trauma can have long lasting effects on all aspects of your life, whether you remember the trauma or not. You might experience medical complications, physical symptoms such as tension or difficulty sleeping, and emotional symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, fearfulness, depression or shame. You may also find yourself avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma. You might numb or soothe yourself with food, alcohol, sex or other substances and may not even know why.
Eddins Counseling Group aims to make a difference in people’s lives through counseling, therapy and other treatments. One of these methods is EDMR Therapy, which is a powerful treatment approach used by a trained trauma therapist that can help you break free from trauma and its lasting symptoms.
What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy approach that has helped people relieve many types of psychological distress. Substantial scientific research has established EMDR as effective for treating posttraumatic stress. It has also been effective in treating anxiety disorders such as phobias or panic disorder, disturbing memories, performance anxiety, trauma, stress reduction, complicated grief, sexual and/or physical abuse. EMDR therapy heals trauma by teaching you skills to handle emotional distress and using stimulation such as eye movements and taps. EMDR can help release the hold trauma has in your body, relieve symptoms and help you regain your life.
Before beginning EMDR, your trauma therapist will teach you coping skills and strategies to feel safe and grounded, increase your resiliency, and help you learn to self-regulate your emotions. Once you’re prepared, you’ll identify negative feelings and beliefs that you may have developed as a result of the trauma you experienced. For example, you may hold a belief that you are unlovable, experience disturbing thoughts or images, or feel uncomfortable physical sensations in your body. The EMDR process helps you to release the impact of trauma from your mind and body so that you can feel stronger, safer, and more secure.
What is Trauma?
Many people experience some form of trauma in their life, some without recognizing their experience or symptoms as traumatic. Psychological trauma is the result of extraordinarily stressful events that shatter your sense of security and result in you feeling helpless, alone and vulnerable in a dangerous world. When we experience traumatic stress, it impacts our brains physiologically, which in turn impacts our behavior, mood, and physiology.
There are major events that most think of when hearing the word trauma: physical or sexual abuse, war, natural disaster. However, what is often overlooked is what is referred to as “little t” trauma. The key in trauma is your experience and not the severity of the event. Factors such as whether or not you were a child, if it occurred by a caregiver, or how long the experience lasted can impact the severity of “little t” trauma for you personally. Examples of “little t” trauma include:
- Ongoing emotional abuse/neglect
- Being bullied or ridiculed
- Experiences of shame, being left out
- Feeling not cared for, rejected
- Sports or other physical injuries
- Loss or death of someone/something very close
- Car accident
- Childhood medical or developmental issues
How Do I Know if I Need EMDR Therapy?
You may experience Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) (read more about PTSD symptoms here or take a PTSD test) or you might just notice the following impact of painful experiences in your life. EMDR therapy can offer relief and healing from these symptoms.
- Hypervigilance: feeling on alert to everything (and everyone) in your surroundings
- Upsetting or negative emotions
- Feeling “stuck” or “frozen”
- Feeling disconnected or numb
- Anxiety / panic attacks
- Unexplained medical complications
- Physical “tightness” in the muscles (clenched jaw, tight shoulders)
- Confusion, difficulty concentrating
- Feeling “unsafe”
- Withdrawing from others
- Anger, irritability, mood swings
- Obsessive thinking
- Intrusive thoughts/distressing memories/flashbacks
- Feeling “spaced out”
- Negative beliefs
- Chronic pain
Rather than struggling with these symptoms, EMDR therapy can help you process and let go of your traumatic experience. Letting go means having more energy for living your life with greater freedom and ease. It means letting go of fear, shame, restless nights, and building greater confidence.
Will I Have to Revisit Painful Memories or Experiences?
Many people who have experienced any form of trauma develop a very normal way of coping by blocking out or repressing particularly painful memories. Unfortunately, over time, these traumatic memories may rise to the surface in disturbing ways. Or the impact of the experience may show up via symptoms such as the ones in the list above or in PTSD.
EMDR seeks to help you relieve the disturbance resulting from traumatic experiences. One way this is accomplished is by briefly recalling a vivid memory while engaging in EMDR processing via eye movements or taps. This process continues until there is no distress when recalling the memory. You don’t have to discuss the details and it’s very important not to relive the experience. Your EMDR therapist will guide you through this process making sure you feel safe and secure throughout.
It’s not necessary to dig up buried memories to start the process of healing. Furthermore, the goal of EMDR therapy is to reduce the disturbance of painful memories. You will be guided safely through a process of healing at a pace that feels safe and comfortable for you.
It’s not necessary to have painful or buried memories for EMDR to be effective. You can also process current situations that cause emotional stress.
What if I Don’t Remember Any Specific Trauma?
You don’t need to recall a specific incident for EMDR to be effective. If you resonate with the symptoms of trauma, you can begin by exploring your history to identify a particular feeling that stands out to you the most. From there, what needs to surface and process may emerge and your therapist will guide you through anything that might be stuck.
How Long Does EMDR Therapy Last?
Each person processes trauma in a different way. Initially, your therapist will guide you in building resources to prepare you for the EMDR phase of therapy. Once beginning the EMDR process, you may begin to notice shifts within 3-5 sessions. Some clients achieve their goals within 8-12 sessions and for those with complex or developmental trauma, it may be longer. EMDR works best when used in conjunction with traditional therapy so you may want additional therapy sessions with a trauma therapist to process and integrate your experience.
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR Treatment (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy) is a technique that allows the brain to process and let go of trauma or upsetting experiences. What we know about trauma is that when a person is in distress, the brain is unable to process information as it does normally. A disturbing experience or perception of negative experience can be recorded in the body and left “frozen in time.” The disturbing or upsetting experience is stored with all the thoughts, feelings, sensations, sights and sounds with it. This experience becomes “trapped” in the body’s nervous system since the brain is unable to process it. It may not be remembered or suppressed from consciousness, but it still impacts emotional reactivity and emotional functioning through the body. This is why, for example, a soldier may jump when hearing a loud sound such as a car backfire. The sound is stored in the body along with the traumatic experience and the body is still responding as if it were in the traumatic situation.
Often we tend to develop negative beliefs about ourselves related to these disturbing experiences, which then impact how we see the world and relate to others. For example, if you were abused, you may at a deep level believe that you are unlovable and perceive frequent rejection in interpersonal relationships. EMDR Treatment unlocks these negative beliefs and feelings from the nervous system and allows the brain to process it fully. Through EMDR therapy new insights or information may surface which allows you to become “unstuck” from the past experiences. Images, sounds, feelings and perceptions are remembered but the degree of stress and reactivity has been reduced.
How EMDR Therapy Works
From research with this particular form of psychotherapy, EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. The brain is no longer “frozen” so after an EMDR session, you no longer relive a traumatic experience when it is brought to mind. You will remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. This is why it is so powerful in the treatment of PTSD.
What Can I Expect in an EMDR Treatment Session?
First, your EMDR therapist will help you develop safety and resiliency skills so you can feel safe and grounded throughout the process. Next, you’ll identify a specific problem as the focus of your session. This could be related to grief, stress, anger, disturbing memories or experiences, post-traumatic stress, etc. You will then explore thoughts, beliefs, feelings and uncomfortable physical sensations you’ve developed as a result of that experience. For example, feeling on edge, self-esteem issues, images you hold in your mind, or beliefs such as “I’m worthless”.
Your EMDR therapist will gently guide you to visit the specific traumatic memory, this time experiencing it in a new way. You don’t need to discuss anything specifically, just notice what is present including any body sensations. At the same time, your therapist will facilitate movement of your eyes right and left or other form of stimulation such as holding buzzers that alternate vibrating in your right and left hands. (This is referred to as “bilateral stimulation.”) This has your brain processing two things at once – the movement and the experience you just identified.
This process continues until the memory or specific problem becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self. By combining the memory with the stimulation, the body is able to process and release the trauma stored in your body and develop new, positive beliefs. Most people experience a great reduction in the level of disturbance of the problem. EMDR is most effective when used in conjunction with traditional therapy.
EMDR Treatment Can Help You Heal
“If we cut ourselves, unless there is an obstacle, we tend to heal. If we remove the block, the body goes back to healing.”