What is it?
EMDR is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. (EMDR Institute)
What happens during an EMDR therapy session?
During EMDR therapy, I will work with a client to identify a specific problem that we will focus on during the session. The client will bring to mind a disturbing issue or experience and their thoughts and beliefs about this issue or experience. I will use directional movement of the eyes or bi-lateral stimulation, while the client focuses on the issue, and their job is to just notices what comes up for them. I will continue with sets of eye movements (or stimulation) until the client’s memory becomes less disturbing. There may be times when intense emotion arises, but by the end of the session, it is not unusual for a client to report feelings of great relief.
How does EMDR therapy work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes "frozen in time," and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people. EMDR therapy seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR therapy session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR therapy appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR therapy can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. (EMDR International Association)
I'm interested, but is it right for me?
EMDR therapy is used to treat people with a variety of issues. EMDR therapy has research supporting its effectiveness in PTSD, but it can be used to treat complicated grief, phobias, anxiety, disturbing memories, and stress to name a few. When we meet, we can discuss how EMDR therapy may be beneficial in your treatment.