EDMR Treatment for Healing Trauma
What Is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a brain-based psychotherapy approach that can help you process and recover from upsetting memories, feelings, and thoughts.
What constitutes trauma is different for everyone. Whether it’s a traumatic birth, an unspeakable act of violence, a devastating natural disaster, or a failed relationship, traumas differ in their severity, as well as their effects on us.
If you have experienced trauma, you know how challenging it can be to imagine live a “normal life” again, one where you are not constantly triggered to remember what you have gone through.
EMDR is based on the premise that many psychological difficulties result from distressing life experiences that have not been stored in memory correctly and are unprocessed or blocked.
Unprocessed, raw memories are easily triggered and may replay over and over again in our mind and body, causing us distress.
EMDR is a trauma-informed treatment that can help your brain process what happened and finally heal.
What Makes EMDR Special?
- EMDR can work even when talk therapy has failed.
- You have control throughout the whole process.
- You don’t have to talk about details of what happened to you or complete cumbersome homework assignments.
- You will have “DUAL AWARENESS,” which means that during processing, I will help you remain grounded and have one foot solidly in the present.
- Bilateral Brain Stimulation (eye movements) allows your brain to resume its natural healing process.
- EMDR therapy can resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain.
- For many clients, EMDR therapy can take less time than other treatments.
What Clients have said about EMDR:
- “I can think back about what happened to me, but the memory is no longer alive.”
- “I used to have to worry all the time about something triggering me and feeling upset. Now, I don’t even think about triggers anymore.”
- “I thought about what happened to me every single day for 20 years. Now, I don’t even think about it unless I want to.”
- “I used to believe that I caused what happened to me. I now understand that it was not my fault.”
- “Thanks to EMDR, I feel like I have a whole different future.”
A Word from the Founder of EMDR:
“Changing the memories that form the way we see ourselves also changes the way we view others. Therefore, our relationships, job performance, what we are willing to do or are able to resist, all move in a positive direction.”
— Francine Shapiro (founder of EMDR therapy)
How does EMDR work?
When we experience a traumatic event, our central nervous system kicks into high gear by supplying us with our best resource for survival our stress response (fight, flight, freeze).
Often distressing events are processed sufficiently, and the brain heals itself. These “normal” memories are stored in the part of our brain called the hippocampus.
Sometimes, however, we lack the opportunity to process what has happened to us fully. The stress response (fight, flight, freeze) that helped us survive the trauma event never gets turned off, impeding our ability to process. The hippocampus can’t do its job correctly, and the traumatic memories are not stored properly.
Raw, unprocessed memory fragments, disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions can resurface and manifest in feelings of being back in that moment or being “frozen in time.”
That’s where EMDR comes in.
EMDR assists different parts of the brain in communicating more effectively with each other. Through EMDR processing, the traumatic memory becomes part of the existing positive memory network. You will remember your traumatic experience without the original fight, flight, or freeze response. EMDR therapy helps the brain process traumatic memories allowing your normal healing process to resume.
“The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.” EMDERA
See for Yourself How EDMR Therapy Can Help, with Iris Hogan:
What Takes Place During Treatment?
The Eight Phases Of EMDR
Phase 1 – History Gathering and Treatment Planning
We will begin by gathering information to understand your history, and develop a treatment plan during the first treatment stage.
Phase 2 – Preparations
In preparation for EMDR, you will learn about the impact of trauma on your life, body, emotions, and relationships. You will get to know EMDR, how it works, and what to expect during and after treatment.
Next, you will gain some new coping skills to help you feel more grounded and present, ready for EMDR.
Phase 3 – Assessment
During this phase, you will identify the “target” or the upsetting memory you want to work on, including any negative thoughts, body sensations, or feelings that go with the memory. At this point, you will also identify what you want to believe about yourself as a healthy adult now.
At the end of the process, the goal is that this healthy belief will surface when you think back to what happened to you.
Phases 4 to 6 – Desensitization
This phase is the beginning of the reprocessing of your trauma.
This is where the eye-movement modality of EMDR comes into play, known as bilateral stimulation or “BLS.” BLS has been proven to enhance memory processing. While engaging in BLS, you focus on the trauma’s visual image, a negative thought you hold about yourself from the time of the trauma, and the bodily sensations you are aware of. BLS processing means dealing with the disturbing feelings in a new and more comprehensive way.
Through EMDR, your brain can more fully process the data, including what has happened to you and emotions associated with the memory. Seeing the trauma from this new vantage point can enable you to make sense of what happened with updated information, leading to insights and a deeper level of self-compassion. The former distress related to the traumatic memory dissipates as you process the memory. In this way, EMDR enables you to finally heal.
Phases 7 and 8
During these final two stages, we make sure you feel stable and safe moving forward, and evaluate the progress you have made. Successful treatment means affective distress (your emotional pain) is relieved, negative beliefs (trauma-based thinking patterns) are re-formulated and physiological arousal (your body’s response to trauma) resolves. You remember your traumatic experience without the original fight, flight, or freeze response.
There is no right or wrong way to do EMDR and no prior skill is needed.
Each person processes information differently.
The purpose of EMDR is to reprocess trauma so that you can now feel differently about what happened in your mind, emotions, and body.
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EMDR is Well-Researched and Proven Effective
Research has demonstrated EMDR to be effective for trauma recovery. It is evidenced based and is considered the gold standard of care.
Controlled studies suggest that EMDR is as effective as CBT with exposure therapy.
EMDR has Advantages over Exposure Therapy. EMDR does not require any homework, results are often seen more quickly with EMDR, and EMDR is nonverbal, for those who prefer not to engage in exclusively talk-based therapy.
The American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs/Dept. of Defense, The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and the World Health Organization, among many other national and international organizations recognize EMDR therapy as an effective treatment. (About EMDR Therapy | EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org/about-emdr-therapy)
Number of Sessions
The number of treatment sessions required varies depending on what you want to work on, your history, and your treatment response. Working through one traumatic memory, of course, takes much less time than if you have multiple experiences you need to address.
Working on a single traumatic event can often be resolved in three to six sessions. EMDR will take longer if you are dealing with multiple traumas or a long history of abuse or neglect, or if you are currently in an unsafe environment.
EMDR Therapy Online
EMDR can also take place when you can’t come into the office for whatever reasons. I offer virtual EMDR through a secure, HIPPA compliant, and safe video platform. Many clients that have experienced both in-office and virtual EMDR sessions report that virtual EMDR is effective and has helped them heal.
EMDR May Be A Good Choice For You If:
- You are still experiencing distressing thoughts or feelings from past events.
- You have decided to go through a trauma recovery process.
- You have tried self-help books or other therapies and nothing has seemed to help. EMDR can make a difference in many cases when traditional talk therapy did not work.
- You want to spend less time in therapy. EMDR frequently takes much less time than other techniques to be effective.
- You don’t want to talk in great detail about what has happened to you.
I am a trained trauma therapist and am knowledgeable about many different trauma-informed therapies. EMDR is the most comprehensive and powerful healing trauma method I have encountered. I have used EMDR for the past 15 years and witnessed many people experience incredible trauma recovery. I would like to help you recover too.