EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a very effective method to decrease uncomfortable emotions about a past experience or event. It has been researched extensively and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. To date, EMDR has helped an estimated two million people relieve many types of psychological stress. People can become quite “stuck” after a negative experience. EMDR helps to process the experiences in a safe way and reprocess the thoughts naturally.
EMDR can address:
- Stress Management
- PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder)
- Abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, sexual)
- Rape Recovery
- Difficult Relationships
- Excessive Anger
- Personal & Spiritual Growth
We all have a natural emotional healing process, just as we have a natural physical healing process. When we get a cut, our natural physical healing process heals it. When things happen that upset us emotionally, we are usually able to get over them and go on with our lives. If you fall off your bike and get a little shook up, most likely you will get through it, go on with your life and won’t remember the event. However, if you are hit by a car on your bike, the event might be a little more tricky to get over. Some difficulties that may stick with you are: not wanting to ride a bike, feeling queasy every time you see that same car, or avoiding particular parts of roads. Life could be impacted greatly because of this particular incident. You may avoid certain social settings because of it, or never go by parks. EMDR can help to speed up the processing so you don’t stay “stuck” from the traumatic event. Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR, says that what is happening is the Adaptive Information Processing system, as she calls it. The brain is reprocessing how traumatic material is stored so that the memory of the upsetting incident is integrated into the big picture of our lives and no longer causes us to get upset. Most of the bad things that happen to us get processed naturally to what Shapiro calls “adaptive resolution,” so we can resiliently handle the new events of our lives.
Unfortunately, some bad things that happen to us don’t heal like they should. Sometimes the brain’s processing system isn’t always available, without help, to process it and put it into the perspective of our whole lives. The disturbance can either be a major trauma, or repeated smaller life event that undermine our “okayness” in the world. These traumatic events get stored in isolated pockets in our neurological system, with the original picture, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. They are like little land mines waiting to go off, and when something triggers them, they can flood into the present, making us overreact to the current situation.
The eye movements, or other bilateral stimulation, seem to stimulate the information and allow the brain to reprocess the “stuck” situation. There are some who say that this is what happens in the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep. Most of the time, distress is gone in the morning. Other times, something is staying “stuck” and we don’t even realize what is happening. The picture of the event may not come to us consciously, yet suddenly we feel unworthy, or hopeless, or fearful, or nauseous and don’t even realize that we are being flooded with dysfunctionally stored material from the past. We may behave in ways we later wish we hadn’t and not fully understand why. The EMDR approach knows you aren’t reacting that way on purpose; the triggered memories are the basis of your actions that don’t fit with the present you. EMDR is much more than just eye movements. It integrates pictures, beliefs, emotions and body sensations in the processing of traumatic memories, current anxieties, or future fears. EMDR helps speed up a natural process of distress so you can feel more like you.
For EMDRIA’s clinical definition of EMDR, click here.
Other questions and resources about EMDR:
- How does EMDR work?
- What is the actual EMDR session like?
- How long does EMDR take?
- But does EMDR really work?
- What kind of problems can EMDR treat?
For additional reading on EMDR, you can read Dr. Francine Shapiro’s textbook EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, second edition. Many other books have been written on EMDR as well. The EMDR Instate has a website at www.emdr.com and the EMDR International Association has a website at www.emdria.org.
Therapists available for EMDR therapy:
Gina Daniels, MS, LMFT – Buffalo
Heidi Waldoch, MA, LMFT – Rogers
Kelsey Lange, MA, LPCC, LADC – Rogers