When you've been through a horrible experience, it may be difficult to simply “let it go” or to make sense of what's happened to you. There are times when the connection between a specific event and how you're feeling is clear. Or you may have no idea why you become anxious or insecure in certain situations, why certain people seem to set you on edge, or why your body is suddenly in distress.
Many people think of trauma as resulting from one major event, such as an assault or rape, an accident, or a natural disaster. However, research into trauma is uncovering more and more evidence that the cumulative effects of adverse childhood experiences, being bullied or humiliated, divorce and family conflict are common sources of traumatic stress. Traumas large and small can build up over time, and cause suffering in the form PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, insecurity and relationship problems.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is used to help you identify memories or experiences that are causing distress or leading to ineffective ways of coping, and to then alleviate the distress associated with these memories.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a therapeutic tool developed to alleviate the symptoms and distress associated with traumatic memories/experiences. EMDR treatment has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma, including PTSD, anxiety, panic and phobias. EMDR therapy is different from traditional talk therapy, but it does incorporate elements of many treatment approaches including psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, narrative and somatic therapies. EMDR is more structured and standardized than many talk therapies, but is also client centered, empowering you to allow your own mind to do the healing and be in control of how you make your way through the process of healing.
What is it like to do EMDR?
As with any good therapy, EMDR begins by getting an understanding of your reasons for seeking therapy, taking a thorough personal history, and establishing goals for our work together. Before the “processing” of an experience or memory, we'll assess how well you're coping with your problems and begin to build on your strengths and self soothing strategies. Depending on how you're managing in your life, these early stages of EMDR can take as few 2 sessions, but more time is commonly necessary to prepare you for delving into experiences that are causing troublesome symptoms or significant problems in your life.
During the processing stage of EMDR, you'll be asked call up the images, emotions, physical sensations, and thoughts that are evoked by a disturbing memory, and you'll rate how disturbing the memory is. Once the memory network is activated, bilateral stimulation will be added (eye movements, tactile/handheld or auditory stimulation). You'll be asked to notice whatever memories, sensations, images, and emotions come up during this process, and slowly begin to shift attention away from negative thoughts and beliefs toward more positive ones. This process continues until the distress associated with the memory is diminished and you're able to regain control over your emotional state.
One of the benefits of EMDR is that you're free to talk about painful memories in as much or as little detail as you like. EMDR is a very internal process, making this approach more accessible for people who have difficulty verbalizing their experiences or for those whose experiences are just too painful to talk about.
EMDR is most effective when combined with other therapy approaches, such as psychodynamic psychotherapy or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
Attachment Focused EMDR
I have been trained in Attachment Focused EMDR, which was developed for the treatment of early and severe childhood trauma, recognizing how early attachment effects an individual's relationship with self and others.
Attachment Focused EMDR emphasizes the therapeutic relationship as an integral part of repairing and healing from trauma, and is client centered, recognizing the unique needs of each person. Attachment Focused EMDR combines processes to enhance individual strengths; using EMDR to process trauma; and traditional talk therapy to help integrate what is learned in EMDR sessions.