EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is the name given to a trauma treatment protocol developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., found helpful in desensitizing anxiety. What first began using ‘Eye Movements’ to help process the unconscious material, has turned to a more accelerated form of information processing.
Do you notice you are unable to move past a difficult experience, leaving you confused and stuck?
EMDR is a tool or protocol that can be helpful to people who have experienced some sort of traumatic experience like childhood abuse, earthquakes, sexual assualt, unresolved loss or a car accident. When a trauma occurs, painful experiences seem to get locked in the brain/nervous system. EMDR helps a person to desensitize and reprocess the traumatic memory by stimulating the brain’s own imformation processing to heal psychological stuck points. Your therapist will use eye movements, hand taps or sounds from headphone to help you re-process the traumatic memory experience.
When I recall the car accident, it’s like a flash, my muscles tighten and I often feel a wave of panic shuddering through my body. Is it normal to feel this scared? I thought I was over it?
Yes, that’s quite natural. It’s a normal body response. During a traumatic experience, thoughts, images and most of all traumatic sensations overwhelm the senses. The body and mind can only cope (process) with the necessary survival information, leaving other information to be stored as a traumatic memory. Emotional and physical pain are reported to be stored in the same area of our brain. When the mind remembers a traumatic experience, often the thoughts, images, negative beliefs (eg. -I am not safe, -I must be worthless, -I’m terrified), smells, emotions, tastes,sights,sounds and colours coalesce into body sensations. You may feel confused, stuck or panicy and not know why.
How can EMDR help?
EMDR was origninally used to treat anxiety with Vietnam veterans returning with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). EMDR helps re-process traumatic memories. After EMDR sessions, a person will still remember what happend during the event (eg. 9-11), but EMDR therapy will hopefully reduce and remove the fear and body sensations and negative thoughts associated with the trauma experience.
What is involved in EMDR sessions?
Basically, it’s your own brain that does the healing. After taking a history of your story, a clinically trained EMDR therapist will evaluate your stress coping styles, and readiness to begin EMDR treatment. This may take a few sessions. EMDR is a complex eight phase psychodynamic method or protocol.
The eight phases, are oulined by EMDR’s originator Francine Shapiro Ph.D. in her book: Eye Movement Desensitiation and Reprocessing, Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures(1995) (pg. 67-68) as: client history taking, client preparation, assessment and safe place, desensitization, installation, body scans, closure and re-evaluation. Only after careful evaluation does the clinician move on to the second phase. Your therapist will let you try different types of bilateral stimulation to determine which you feel will be the most responsive. While EMDR started out with eye movements, alternating sounds from headphones or hand tappers can be used to process the memory sensations.
What is different about EMDR?
It is important for clients to remember that it is their own brain that does the healing and you are in control. Trained EMDR clinicians remain quiet during processing and only use the client’s selected bilateral stimulation to allow the information to continue processing towards resolution.
Afterwards, when the traumatic memory has desensitized down to a 0 ( SUDS), the EMDR therapist will help you select a positive belief you wanted about yourself related to the original incident. If you felt ‘scared’ during the car accident, after processing the memory with EMDR, the therapist will help you reinforce your desired positive belief, for example: ” I am calm now and I am safe most of the time.”
See the EMDRIA website for more information.
Can any therapist who has read Dr. Shapiro’s book use EMDR with me?
A common mistake. Certified clinical training with observation under practice of Master EMDR clinicians is required. Only a Master’s level therapist who has attended EMDRIA -Level 1 and Level 2 – approved training can effectively use EMDR.
I have completed Level 1 EMDR training and I did my Level 2 training with Dr. F. Shapiro Ph.D. and other senior EMDIRA-EMDR clinicians. I am currently studying the Peak Performance model of David Grand.
For what issues is EMDR used?
EMDR can be used to reduce anxiety, enhance self-esteem, and assist in recovering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have been fortunate to assist some of our Armed Forces personnel through using EMDR.