Before we get into EMDR therapy, I think it is important to discuss what trauma is. Trauma is any event or experience in your life that has had a continued or long-standing impact. These experiences can range from physical, emotional, sexual abuse, serving in the war, history of being bullied, or unresolved grief. These are just a few of many experiences that can be traumatic for a person.
Going through these experiences can pose many challenges for you including nightmares, flashbacks or feeling like you are reliving the trauma. You may be feeling numb or disconnected from others and even yourself. Disconnected from your emotions, body, or even the reality of what is in front of you.
When it comes to our brain, it can be physically and chemically altered after going through a traumatic experience. Since our brain directs how we feel, how we think, and how we behave these impacts can be very overwhelming for a person.
In overcoming these symptoms and challenges, EMDR therapy has been found to be effective for those struggling with trauma and PTSD. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This is a treatment technique that facilitates the reprocessing of a traumatic memory. While this treatment technique was initially developed for those struggling with PTSD or trauma, it can also benefit those who struggle with anxiety, panic attacks, addiction, and much more.
Unlike other approaches, EMDR therapy focuses on one specific memory at a time. This allows us to desensitize, or decrease the disturbance level of a memory, and then reprocess the memory. Reprocessing allows us to adapt healthier and more rational beliefs about the memory. It allows us to alter the way the memory is stored in the brain and, as a result, can allow us to put the information in the right folder in the filing cabinet.
Following an EMDR session, the events are still remembered. However, the painful thoughts, emotions, and body sensations that were associated with that memory are no longer re-lived. Through this process, you will be able to shift your negative beliefs about the trauma into more positive or rational thoughts. For example, if your initial negative thought was, “This is my fault”, we are able to shift this belief into a more rational one, such as “I didn’t deserve this” . These shifts in belief have been found effective in decreasing PTSD symptoms for an individual.