e.m.d.r. to reduce stress & heal from disturbing events
Hippocrates said, “The natural healing force in each one of us in the greatest force in getting well.” EMDR taps into this natural ability to heal and uses the wisdom in your body and your subconscious mind to help you heal fro life’s most painful events, develop new ways of coping and learn how to physically feel better.
Chances are you’ve never heard of EMDR before but it’s already helped over two million people lower their stress and heal from life’s most difficult events. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is now widely regarded as the most effective and most efficient form of therapy following a disturbing life event as more than 20 controlled studies have found that EMDR effectively decreases or eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients.
Disturbing events often impact us more significantly than we realize. Frequently they have negative residual effects on our lives decades later. Common traumas include hurtful parental relationships in childhood, car accidents, major losses, any form of abuse, frightening medical experiences, a loss of a significant relationship, diagnosis of a life threatening illness, and exposure to war or other forms of violence. More generally speaking, if you feel an event was disturbing or traumatic in your life, it probably was.
When an individual is extremely upset under these circumstances their brain doesn’t processing information efficiently and completely as it normally does. If the human mind were a computer, a trauma is an event that causes such a great influx of data that the computer crashes and is unable to process all of the information. Thus, traumas often become lodged in the mind and can interfere with the other programs the brain is running as indicated by post-traumatic symptoms such as anxiety or attempts to avoid reminders of the trauma. Remembering the trauma may be as disturbing as experiencing it the first time because these memories are complete with sounds, smells, feelings and images that haven’t changed. These disturbing memories can have a negative impact on the way a person is able to interact with the world.
Dr. Francine Shapiro, the creator of EMDR, states “When a disturbing event or trauma occurs it can get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. EMDR uses simple eye movement techniques or other forms of bilateral stimulation. The bilateral stimulation seems to unlock the nervous system and allow the mind and body to process the experience as it would normally”. Because processing is restored, people often report that they no longer relive the feelings, sounds, images and physical sensations when they think of the trauma. Many in the field of psychology speculate that EMDR is similar to what normally occurs during the REM stages of sleep as eye movements may process the unconscious material.
Many compare the desensitization phase to watching a movie of an event in their life. You have the remote control and can fast forward, rewind, zoom in, pause and pan out as your mind needs to process the information. During this process clients have “one foot in the past” by visualizing the event, and “one foot in the present” by doing this within the safe, controlled therapy environment and with a trained professional present. Being rooted in the present also makes the processing of traumas less overwhelming than the triggers, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts and nightmares experienced by many.
EMDR is not for everyone. An assessment of one’s coping skills and the gathering of historical trauma events must take place before the desensitization process can begin. Clients must also be committed to completing their trauma work once the process has started. Much like a prescription for antibiotics, clients benefit much more when they complete the entire course.
Both Angela and Scott provide EMDR at Flourish Counseling. Therapists must be highly experienced and receive extensive training in order to provide EMDR. Clients often report faster and more complete healing from trauma with EMDR than from traditional talk therapy due to its somatice (or body-centered) orientation. The number of sessions needed varies with each client’s history.
Shapiro adds, “It’s important to remember that it’s your brain that’s healing during EMDR and that you are the one in control of this process.” Just as our bodies naturally know how to begin to heal a cut, EMDR jumpstarts your mind’s natural ability and desire to heal itself. Client preferences are noted, safety guards put in place, and the work progresses at your pace to further empower you as you heal.
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