An advanced and unique psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, or simply EMDR, is helping people with PTSD, panic disorder, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other issues resulting from past trauma.
What is EMDR?
It has been known for awhile that early adverse life events may be the basis for a variety of negative and damaging psychological symptoms. EMDR is an empirically validated therapy that targets unprocessed memories connected to adverse experiences, like war, sexual abuse, and physical abuse. While your body survives these events, your mind may not heal as you would like leaving you with nightmares, flashbacks, high anxiety, and a very negative self-outlook. By processing these traumatic memories, there can be rapid symptom relief: fewer flashbacks, fewer panic attacks, and less obsessive thoughts.
You have probably heard the phrase ‘time heals all wounds’. Not necessarily true is it? If you are suffering from past trauma, obsessive-compulsive disorder, phobias, depression, performance anxiety, medically unexplained physical symptoms, low self-esteem, or have a history of adverse life experiences, EMDR may be a very useful therapy for you.
How Does EMDR Work?
The brain is a very complex organ with a variety of roles to perform each day. One of the brain’s primary functions is to process a wide degree of incoming information. So basically, it is an information processing system. Throughout the day, this information processing system will take in a variety of emotions and feelings via our day-to-day experiences. We want the brain to be ‘adaptive’ in that the brain will take what is useful and disregard what isn’t. We want these emotions and experiences to be resolved or ‘processed.’
For example, let’s say you have a very bad argument with a family member. You are angry, upset, frustrated, and sad. You are probably also upset and disappointed with yourself. But you walk away, you go home and stew about it and play the conversation over and over in your head and then you eventually go to sleep. The next morning you wake up and don’t feel so bad about what happened. Maybe you have ‘adapted’ or reached a ‘resolution.’ This occurs because the brain’s ‘adaptive information processing system’ was activated. We think this mainly occurs during REM sleep, a stage of sleep where scientists hypothesize that memories are processed and modified – or when the ‘adaptive resolution’ takes place.
EMDR Phases To Expect
EMDR therapy is an 8 phase treatment protocol that uses the Adaptive Information Processing Model, which states that “memory networks are the basis of pathology and health” and that the body is “naturally geared toward health.” The goal of EMDR therapy is to create an adaptive resolution of a past trauma and to assist the client in responding to life’s current and future demands. Before the actual reprocessing session, the EMDR therapist works to identify the memories needing adaptation and the related negative beliefs about the patient. Throughout the course of treatment, you will also identify situations in the future that you anticipate having similar anxieties and develop an alternate pattern of response to those as well.
EMDR reprocessing typically involves a series of repetitive eye movements that is a simulation of the rapid eye movement that occurs during REM sleep. This is NOT hypnosis because unlike hypnosis you are the one in control and it will be your brain doing the healing. This happens through the eye movements, guided by the EMDR therapist. The eye movements lead the mind to free associate to related memories, thus linking the past and present. By using these eye movements, we think processing of past trauma is initiated by the idea of dual attention or focusing on the eye movements with an emphasis on the memory, or through encouraging the brain to access both the left and right hemisphere. This causes the memory to be processed from a highly charged emotional memory to a more adaptive form. However, the reality is we aren’t 100% sure why or how this therapy works, but with over 30 extensive clinical trials, we know it is very effective when performed by a trained and experienced therapist with a patient who desires to improve the quality of their life.
Contact a Top10MD Psychologist today to schedule your appointment.