EMDR is a form of psychotherapy originally developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to address the symptoms associated with traumatic memories associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) , though it has been proven to have many other uses including performance enhancement.
EMDR is a way of helping people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that interfere with daily functioning and prevent a person from achieving what they want to in life that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Symptoms such as
- Panic attacks
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Anxiety disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Complicated grief
- Sexual and/or physical abuse
can be addressed and remediated in a relatively short time. Repeated studies show that EMDR can help people experience the benefits of psychotherapy that it used to take years to achieve.
EMDR is based on the fact that the movement of our eyes assists in processing emotions. EMDR uses a natural function of the body, Rapid Eye Movement (REM), as its basis. The human mind uses REM during sleep time to help it process daily emotional experiences. There is some evidence that the eye movements perform a similar function to those that occur during REM sleep (when we dream), which we already know to have a vital information processing function. The human mind uses REM during sleep time to help it process daily emotional experiences. When trauma is extreme, this process breaks down and REM sleep doesn't bring the usual relief from distress. EMDR comes is thought to be an advanced stage of the REM processing. As the brain via the eye-movement processes troubling images and feelings, resolution of the issue can be achieved.
When we have a trauma (this could be a huge trauma like a car accident, a death or a natural disaster, or an event that our minds interpreted as traumatic like parental criticism or being made fun of as a child) the memories are stored incorrectly in the "short term" area of the brain, so that when we remember the event, it is like it just happened. Through using an external stimulus such as a moving finger or a light, coupled with binaural music to stimulate both hemispheres of the brain, and accessing the traumatic memory at the same time, astounding relief of symptoms can occur as the memory is reprocessed and stored in the proper area of the brain.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health. "Processing" does not mean talking about it. "Processing" means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be "digested" and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.
A number of scientific studies have shown EMDR to be effective. The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology published by Wilson, Becker, and Tinker in December, 1995 studied 80 subjects with PTSD using EMDR treatment. The study appeared to show that the subjects improved significantly with this form of treatment and further study showed that this improvement was seen for at least 15 months later.
An example of what an EMDR session might look like is this:
The client makes himself comfortable. The client and therapist discuss what issues they will work on in this particular session. The therapist sits to the client's side and holds her two middle fingers together similar to a Boy Scout's salute, but about six inches in front of the client's eyes. The client is given headphones to listen to specially filtered music or a binaural tone. The client is instructed to follow the fingers as the therapist moves them rhythmically back and forth in front of his eyes. The client then attempts to remember the particular event as the therapist continues the movement. The whole procedure lasts for perhaps five minutes at which time the therapist withdraws her fingers. Client and therapist then further discuss what has been remembered.
If you struggle with unpleasant symptoms associated with past memories or events that you cannot seem to move past, EMDR therapy may be for you. Please visit my website www.carolyntuckertherapist.com or call 770-789-0847 to contact me for a free consultation.