WHAT IS EMDR THERAPY?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a process that allows the body to integrate and heal from uncomfortable sensations associated with painful or distressing memories. Because stress manifests cognitively (in the brain), emotionally, and physically, EMDR therapy seeks to resolve stress by activating both sides of the brain, which helps the brain to integrate the memory in a neutral way.
EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989 when she realized that moving her eyes back and forth helped her to self-soothe. Since its inception, this form of therapy has gained momentum throughout the mental health community, and its effectiveness in targeting trauma has been well documented.
As such, EMDR has become a widely accepted form of therapy for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Both the Department of Defense and the International Society for Traumatic Stress have recognized EMDR as a highly effective model for military veterans and other individuals who have experienced acute trauma.
Though initial studies focused on demonstrating support of EMDR as a trauma-informed approach, it has since been researched more extensively and proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, addiction, grief and loss, panic attacks, eating disorders, and chronic pain, among others. As a result, EMDR has gained increased popularity among clinicians.
HOW DOES EMDR THERAPY WORK?
Psychological pain or mental distress is usually addressed on a cognitive level, meaning that we rationally understand and recall adverse experiences. At the same time, such memories are often disregarded on emotional and physical levels.
Problems develop when these memories are stored in the emotional and physical parts of our body without full resolution. The memory or worry we experienced can play “on loop,” creating a sense of stagnancy or feeling stuck in a negative memory cycle. Alternatively, we may suppress the memory or experience. But because the memory is not fully processed, it can manifest in uncomfortable emotions or bodily sensations.
EMDR therapy begins with self-soothing techniques, assessment of adverse experiences, and creating a timeline of difficult events. After a few initial sessions working through this preliminary process, an EMDR clinician will have the client focus on one difficult event at a time. The therapist will help the client identify a target memory, encouraging them to bring to mind the feelings—both emotional and physical—associated with recalling the experience.
To begin the sequence of reprocessing, the therapist will utilize bilateral stimulation—which may incorporate side-to-side eye movements, tactile stimulation, or alternating audio. After each set of stimulation, the therapist will check in with the client to assess their thoughts, feelings, and sensations with the intention of moving toward decreased distress. The sequence will repeat until the difficult event takes on a neutral (or even positive) association, rather than a negative one. EMDR processing continues until each event on the client’s timeline maintains a neutral/positive association.
What Makes EMDR Better?
In addition to being a “bottom-up” approach, EMDR therapy is also considered a quicker, gentler, and less invasive treatment method because it requires relatively little verbal processing or “re-living” of traumatic experiences. Because of this, EMDR is incredibly helpful for individuals who have difficulties articulating how they feel and for those working through issues that may be scary, embarrassing, or sensitive.
When clients can successfully integrate their adverse experiences, they’re better prepared to cope with heavy emotions or difficult sensations, ultimately cultivating more energy for the present and future as they resolve their past challenges. EMDR therapy actually allows clients to feel relief from pain, in many cases experiencing the lifting of both an emotional and physical weight. This allows individuals to have more positive personal beliefs and foster more forgiveness of self and others.
EMDR THERAPY AT CARBAJAL COUNSELING
To become a trained EMDR therapist, a clinician must have graduated from a masters or doctoral program and completed over 50 hours of training with an EMDR International Association-approved instructor. Carbajal Counseling has several EMDR therapists, who have completed the EMDR training process out of a desire to help those in need.
At our practice, we incorporate EMDR into therapy sessions for children and adults. For our younger clients, we may use EMDR during play therapy sessions by adapting bilateral stimulation techniques specifically for this audience. For our adult clients who prefer verbal processing, EMDR can be used during narrative therapy sessions. In addition, we may utilize EMDR for couple’s work, as many relationship issues stem from attachment injuries that can be successfully targeted using rapid eye movement therapy.
We believe that no concern is too minor to warrant the use of EMDR therapy. Regardless of intensity of distress clients may experience, this approach can help them heal and refocus on present experiences and future hopes. Our clients have reported very positive outcomes using EMDR, and memories that have caused them distress for any number of years have often been integrated and resolved in as few as three or four sessions.
EMDR CAN STOP THE CYCLE OF DISTRESS AND DISCOMFORT
If you find yourself stuck in a difficult experience from your past, EMDR therapy at Carbajal Counseling can help you reprocess memories and begin to move forward. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with our EMDR specialist or learn more about how we can help, please call (385) 324-5096.
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