What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a powerful and efficient method to address symptoms of post traumatic stress. EMDR therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980’s. It has been shown to be effective in resolving trauma and is considered an Evidence Based Treatment.
EMDR therapy involves identifying memories that have become neurologically ‘stuck.’ These unresolved memories make the past feel like it is still very much the present and they force current life experiences to be filtered through a negative, distorted lens. Using bilateral stimulation (usually in the form of eye movement or alternating tactile buzzers) allows the brain to ‘digest’ the memories that are stuck so they are no longer disturbing. This in turn helps change negative beliefs about yourself that you have developed due to these experiences.
What Can be Treated with EMDR Therapy?
Although EMDR therapy was initially developed to address single even traumas, such as car accidents, natural disasters, assault, etc., it has been found to be an effective treatment for a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, dissociation, and experiences of social discrimination.
We have come a long way since EMDR therapy was first developed and have a much better understanding of the nature of traumatic experiences, both large and small, obvious and subtle. Some of the most profoundly affecting experiences from childhood are those that did not happen that were supposed to – neglect, lack of emotional attunement, etc. These are things that other types of therapy have not been as successful in treating and that I have found EMDR to be profoundly helpful. It can be used to address these types of early trauma. This is why EMDR therapy can be quite beneficial to those with dissociative disorders as well, which are believed to begin developing in early childhood, often before verbal memory is developed.
Research has suggested that people from racial and ethnic minorities may experience racial discrimination as psychological trauma, which results in symptoms very similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). I suspect that this applies to members of other minorities such as those in the LGBTQIA+ community. These experiences lead to internalized negative beliefs about self and the future which can be targeted by using EMDR therapy.
As one of the prominent EMDR therapist and author, Robin Shapiro, noted “EMDR can target the cultural transmission of racism, sexism, class expectations, and the increasingly narrow parameters of acceptable appearance, interests and personality. It can transform the effects of generational transmission of destructive beliefs, identities and emotional states…We can help people accept themselves even when they are bombarded with external messages that they are unacceptable.”
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
The Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model that EMDR therapy is based on suggests that the brain has a natural healing process for dealing with difficult life events; much like the body has a natural healing process for cuts and broken bones. Therefore, EMDR therapy can be likened to cleaning out an infected wound or setting a bone. EMDR therapy is a multi-phase process, often involving significant assessment and preparation, particularly when there is complex and developmental trauma or dissociative processes. It can be an intense experience to activate the thoughts, feelings, and sensations associated with these stuck memories. Therefore, we do a lot of work ahead of time to ensure that you are prepared to handle whatever comes up. I carefully monitor this process so that we do not go too fast. The reward of this difficult work is that the source of the pain is then neutralized, as the brain integrates the positive and reality-based perspectives of safety, efficacy, and self-worth. (Much of this description was generously reproduced with permission of Susie Morgan, MFT).
I was trained in EMDR therapy in 2014 and am in the process of becoming a certified EMDR therapist through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), with a commitment to ongoing training in order to be able to effectively use EMDR therapy to address the varied and complex needs of my clients. If you are interested, click here, to see some of the trainings I have attended. I have also recently become a Consulting In Training for EMDR therapy and for more information about those services, click here.
You have taken the first step by checking out this website. I encourage you to take the next step and call me so that we can speak and find out if we are a good fit for one another. I look forward to speaking with you and coming up with a plan to help you to let go the pain of the past, live more fully in the present and start developing hope for the future.