EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR is recognized as an effective treatment for trauma by many organizations including the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization.
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue, or homework between sessions. EMDR, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Part of the therapy includes alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps.
“Recent research has demonstrated that certain kinds of everyday life experiences can cause symptoms of PTSD as well,” says Francine Shapiro, the originator of EMDR. “Many people feel that something is holding them back in life, causing them to think, feel and behave in ways that don’t serve them. EMDR. therapy is used to identify and process the encoded memories of life experiences that underlie people’s clinical complaints.”
HOW DOES EMDR THERAPY WORK?
The therapy heals trauma by teaching a patient skills to handle emotional distress and using stimulation such as eye movements and taps.
Before beginning EMDR, the therapist will teach coping skills and strategies so the patient feels safe and grounded. The therapist will also work to increase the patient’s resiliency and teach the patient skills to self-regulate emotions. Once prepared, the patient can identify negative feelings and beliefs that may have developed as a result of the experienced trauma. The EMDR process helps patients release the impact of trauma from their minds and bodies so that they feel stronger, safer, and more secure.
EMDR is shown effective to help with life’s small ‘t’ traumas (distressing events that are not inherently life or limb threatening, yet still leave us feeling helplessness such as parenting a child with complex behaviors, a traumatic delivery or childhood bullying) as well as life’s big ‘T’ traumas (the larger events such as a natural disaster or a car accident).
Please reach out to us at (941) 357-4090 for a free phone consultation with Tara Motzenbecker to determine if these services could assist you, a family member, or your child.