Trauma and EMDR

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly specialized therapy used to overcome the effects of traumatic or upsetting experiences. EMDR combines therapeutic methods with eye movements, or rhythmic hand taps or sounds. It involves targeting a stressful past event and “re-programming” the memory with a more positive and empowered view.

What kinds of problems can EMDR alleviate?

EMDR originated as a means of treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and major trauma. However, EMDR can be quite helpful with “small t” traumas — upsetting events that happen in everyday life that may leave us feeling negative about ourselves or the world. Examples include struggling in school; being ridiculed by a parent, spouse, or coworker; or getting lost as a child in a public place. EMDR has been helpful with the following mental health concerns:

Childhood trauma Depression
Physical abuse Anxiety
Sexual abuse Marital issues
Panic attacks Sexual concerns
Addictions Performance anxiety
Phobias Low self-esteem
Obsessive-compulsive disorders Relationship problems
Complicated grief Insomnia

How does EMDR work?

When a person is highly distressed or traumatized, the brain’s normal information processing is interrupted. Later, you may react to certain present situations as if you were still in the traumatic event.

EMDR therapy helps clients process the past; storing it away in an orderly, healthy fashion. EMDR is thought to function similarly to dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.

EMDR does not cause clients to forget the past, nor is it intended to recall lost memories. EMDR helps put upsetting experiences behind us in healthy, empowered ways. Self-esteem is enhanced, relationships recover, behavior improves, and emotions stabilize.

What are some benefits of EMDR?

The main benefit of EMDR is the speed at which deep-seated problems can be resolved. Single sessions of EMDR have been shown to produce results, and research shows an average treatment time of five EMDR sessions to comprehensively treat PTSD.

Unlike many “talk” therapies, EMDR does not require the client to go into detail about past distressing events. While communicating and establishing trust with the therapist is essential, there is no need to analyze the trauma for long periods of time. Moreover, belief in EMDR therapy isn’t even necessary for it to work!

More information about EMDR

EMDR has been around since the late 1980’s. Research on EMDR is ongoing, and to date there is more research to support it than any other treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

EMDR on the web (including research information):

EMDR International Association www.emdria.org

EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program www.emdrhap.org

 

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Allison Rimland, Licensed Professional Counselor