While many people are unfamiliar with EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, it has actually been in use for several decades now. It was developed in the 1980s as a means of alleviating the psychological stress caused by past traumatic events, treating military personnel who have PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
It is now one of the primary therapies the Veterans Administration helps treat vets with trauma and it has since been adapted to help with many other forms of trauma.
EMDR therapy is an evidence-based and effective form of psychotherapy that has been thoroughly researched and proven to aid people in their recovery from trauma especially when the trauma runs deep enough to trigger a physical stress response. If you experience a traumatic event, there will be times when your brain can’t deal with this trauma on its own, and you might need additional help beyond a regular therapeutic session.
If you suffer from issues related to a traumatic event including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, panic disorders, or other stressful experiences, EMDR may help you. Many people may not realize that they have been affected until they are in a situation that triggers the memory. Their brain may not realize that they are merely recalling the experience and not reliving it. If this is something you are dealing with, EMDR can help you resolve and work through your pain allowing your brain to heal.
Many organizations recognize EMDR as an effective treatment including The American Psychiatric Association, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and the World Health Organization among others both national and international.
EMDR therapy seeks to bring your brain back to a state of healing itself from trauma which also tends to make this a good option for children and teens: not just adults. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
While many other therapies involved long and detailed conversations about the trauma, you won’t be required to do that with EMDR. Talking about specific details or completing homework assignments between sessions just isn’t necessary for EMDR to work.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a form of psychotherapy that involves guided eye movements or other bilateral stimulation and resolution of past traumatic experiences. As you’re directed to safely recall the events, feelings and thoughts that cause you to experience psychological stress, we will utilize specific eye movements and/or technology like hand buzzers to help minimize the effect that traumatic memories have on your emotional state, thoughts and even unconscious beliefs. Research is still being done to further explore exactly how and why EMDR and eye movements help to manage psychological stress.
The basis for EMDR is Adaptive Information Processing Theory. Traumatic memories are of those which are not adaptively processed and can live in the body and the mind. EMDR replicates REM sleep, the process through which the brain naturally integrates and processes memories. Using specific eye movements or other kinds of bilateral stimulation during EMDR, traumatic memories can become simply memories. Over time, the memories will produce less of an emotional reaction and people begin to think more positively about themselves.
When we experience traumatic memories and events, our brains are naturally built to recover from them, but they may not always know how to process and deal with them. Our body’s stress responses (such as our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts) are meant to protect us, but it’s fairly common for our minds to be overwhelmed by the memories, images, and feelings from the traumatic event.
We can be blindsided when our brain gets triggered and conjures up the feelings of being back in that moment of trauma. With EMDR therapy, the healing process which might have been interrupted is allowed to resume, and you can find resolution for the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event.
EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain, so anyone with past trauma can benefit from EMDR including children and teens. Most people assume that trauma can only occur from the most stressful events such as combat, being violently assaulted, or surviving extreme weather such as a tornado, but it can also be caused by highly distressing personal events such as non-life-threatening injury, loss of significant loved one, damaging events in childhood, or the loss of a pet.
EMDR doesn’t require the client to talk about the trauma in detail to still be effective, so it can be a good option for victims of extreme abuse or those who have survived particularly harrowing situations and who have difficulty talking about it. EMDR therapy can also be useful in treating other mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, addictions, and eating disorders.
Specifically, EMDR is currently used to treat people suffering from:
James Brillon is a licensed professional clinical counselor trained in EMDR trauma resolution therapy to help people overcome traumatic memories and alleviate suffering. He serves clients in the Costa Mesa and Los Alamitos, California, areas.
James Brillon uses an integrative, relational, and compassionate approach that fits with the diverse group of clients he works with. You will be fully supported on your path to healing as you are led to self-compassion and mindfulness, and you will be empowered to create change in your life.