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.”
EMDR Treatment (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) 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.
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 memory, this time experiencing it in a new way. You don’t need to discuss anything specifically, just notice what is present. 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 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.