Let go traumatic experiences and negative believes that hold you back.
What Is EMDR Therapy And How Can It Help?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is an empirically-based, research-driven intervention for treating trauma, PTSD, and a range of related symptoms and conditions.
Unlike traditional counseling, EMDR doesn’t always require individuals to discuss in detail their painful experiences. Rather it focuses on using the brain’s natural capacity to heal itself by rewiring negative thoughts, emotions, and behaviors related to the traumatic experience. EMDR provides a comprehensive, eight-phase approach to healing on a psychological, physical, and emotional level.
Since its development in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR has become the premier method of resolving both mild to severe cases of trauma and PTSD. The World Health Organization (WHO), The American Psychiatric Association (APA), the US Dept. of Veterans Affairs, as well as the US Dept. of Defense all recognize EMDR’s effectiveness.
The Nature Of Trauma And Why It Can Be Hard To Address
Trauma usually comes in two sizes: Big “T” and Little “t.” Most people are familiar with big trauma—witnessing or living through a natural disaster, sexual assault, or a car accident. But less attention is given to Little “t”’s like being bullied, neglected, or forced to constantly relocate as a child. And because being raised by toxic parents, getting divorced, or losing a pet doesn’t have the same ring to it as suffering a devastating injury in combat, people tend not to validate those experiences. Instead, they get normalized as a part of everyday life.
But no matter how severe the trauma, no matter how long the duration, it can still have a profound impact on a person’s well-being and development. Typically there are three main areas in which trauma shows itself. The first is a behavioral manifestation, involving a lack of focus or attention. In children, this can often be misunderstood and diagnosed as ADD or defiance. For adults, it can mean not being able to pursue a goal or sustain attention to see a task through to fruition.
The second area affects the formation of self-acceptance. Misinformed beliefs and negative assumptions, such as I’m not good enough, often lead to feelings of isolation and inadequacy.
Sometimes, a person may feel so sensitive (or possibly indifferent) that it results in wild mood swings and unpredictable behaviors. In the aftermath, people frequently turn to injurious behaviors—such as substance use, promiscuous sex, shopping, or overeating—to compensate for the way they feel.
The third way in which trauma manifests is in relationships and how people connect with each other. Often, survivors of trauma deal with a lot of sadness—a pervasive sense of helplessness and powerlessness that renders the world a dangerous place. Without the feeling of being safe or supported, many people either develop people-pleasing tendencies or, conversely, become arrogantly and aggressively avoidant of attachment.
Survivors of big trauma are more likely to be aware of the impact it has had on their lives. However, many of those who have suffered little traumas often go through life never realizing that it has affected them profoundly because they are unable to pinpoint an exact event or moment when things started going south. But the human brain is designed to protect us from harmful memories, and as a result, fogginess is frequently indicative of at least some traumatic element in a person's life.
This is why trauma can be so complicated, requiring a therapeutic strategy that goes beyond talk therapy and homework between sessions.
Why Does EMDR Therapy Work?
Trauma puts the limbic system of your brain into a state of high alert, locking you into a fight-or-flight fear response. Usually, this response can be beneficial, protecting us from danger. However, a traumatic experience freezes that moment in time so that the limbic system stays in overdrive trying to deal with a threat that has already passed.
EMDR therapy uses rapid eye movements, physical tapping, or alternating sounds to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain similar to how REM sleep (our dream state) works. This bilateral stimulation awakens the logical part of your brain that has been dormant, subject to the will of the limbic system. The result enables you to look at your experience through the eyes of an observer—to see that you are stronger than the symptoms that have long been integrated into the way you navigate the world.
EMDR empowers you to face difficult, uncomfortable experiences in a safe way, and in the process rewrite the negative narrative of your life into one of strength and survival.
What Are The Eight Phases Of EMDR Therapy?
EMDR treatment is an eight-step, holistic intervention that engages your brain, your body, and your emotions, which is why it is so powerful. In phase one of the process, we’ll begin by assessing your situation, looking at any challenges you are facing, what their precursors may have been, and what the best approach to healing may be. This could involve looking at aspects of your childhood or any other contributing factors at the core of your emotional distress.
Phase two is about making sure that you have all the internal resources and skills needed to maintain emotional equilibrium during and after sessions. Usually, that involves mindfulness, breathing exercises, visualization techniques, and other grounding strategies.
Phases three through six are dedicated to the actual EMDR process. Part of that includes identifying 1) a negative image related to the traumatic event or memory, 2) a faulty belief about the self, and 3) emotions and physical sensations linked to the experience. At that point, we’ll begin with some bilateral brain stimulation in the form of sounds, alternating eye movements, or tapping.
In phase seven, I’ll have you keep a journal of your experiences throughout the week, noting what comes up between sessions and how you managed those challenges. Phase eight is about evaluating your progress and reassessing how you feel about your experience. It allows us to track your progress and determine the next steps of treatment should you require any.
Though single incident trauma can often be resolved in a relatively short time compared to traditional talk therapy, exposure to a series of little traumas may take a while longer. However, EMDR is perfectly suited for either situation, targeting all of the negative schemas or life patterns that affect you on a daily basis. And because EMDR is so versatile, it can address a range of trauma-related challenges, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, grief and loss, chronic illnesses, and more.
If you feel invisible at work because you can’t speak up, EMDR can help you regain a sense of confidence and self-worth. It also enables you to challenge negative beliefs about yourself adopted over time and replace them with positive, more accurate representations of yourself. And if you are struggling to find ways of coping that don’t include injurious behaviors, EMDR is loaded with stress-regulation strategies that put you back in control.
Moreover, EMDR is comprised of the best elements of other powerful interventions, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and mindfulness strategies. And while it’s not necessarily important to know what each of these do, the combination of techniques creates a cutting-edge approach to trauma and PTSD treatment that is unparalleled.
Whatever you are going through, I can help you find profound and sustainable healing that goes beyond merely managing the symptoms of trauma and PTSD. Together we can work to set safe boundaries in relationships with your partner, family, and friends. You can feel better, improve your concentration, and successfully carry projects through to fruition. And instead of constantly undervaluing yourself, you can finally begin living up to your potential and enjoy the road ahead.
Let Me Help You Cast Off The Limitations Of The Past
Since 2003, I’ve been helping clients reclaim their lives from a painful past. And I have seen the positive impact that EMDR can have on a person’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being. If you would like to know more about this holistic, mind and body approach to true healing, please call 786-366-6030 for your free, 15-minute consultation.