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EMDR Therapy

Did you know your brain can recover from traumatizing memories and experiences? Yes, you can manage and resolve traumatic experiences; however, professional help makes the process quicker and easier. A normal response to any stressful situation is to fight, run, or freeze. Any time a horrific event occurs, disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions can overwhelm and leave you feeling stuck at the moment. 

In EMDR therapy, the brain processes these memories and heals itself normally. Though memories of the original experience remain, you no longer experience the fight, flight, or freeze reaction.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a structured approach to treating trauma and other symptoms that involve reconnecting with images, feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations associated with the trauma. It allows the brain to integrate feelings, thoughts, and images with its natural healing abilities.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy uses rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation to assist individuals in recovering from trauma and other painful life experiences.

Research suggests that bilateral stimulation helps to reduce the psychological impact of traumatic memories. Healing occurs after processing the pain and fear associated with trauma. After repeated exposure, you will experience fewer adverse reactions to such memories.

What is the Purpose of EMDR?

In contrast to other therapies that change the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors associated with distressing experiences, EMDR therapy focuses directly on the traumatic memory to change its storage in the brain. As Shapiro suggests, EMDR can assist with the successful relief of clinical complaints by working with the components of the contributing distressing memories. 

It can be a small-t trauma or a large trauma. Information processing happens when central memories link with more adaptive memories. Then you learn and can process the trauma with the right emotions.

We all possess cognitive systems based on physiological processes which compare to other body systems, such as digestion, where the body extracts nutrients for survival and health. Information processing systems transform the various elements of our experiences into useful and accessible memory storage. Memory is a connection between thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations. As you form new associations with previously stored material, learning occurs.

In cases of trauma or very negative events, information processing may be incomplete, possibly caused by strong negative feelings or dissociation. 

For example, rape victims may know that rapists are responsible for their crimes, but this information does not relate to the individual feeling that the rapist is to blame. As a result, the person misfiles the memory, lacking proper associative connections and containing many unprocessed elements. 

If they recall the trauma or witnesses similar situations, they may feel as if she is reliving it or experience powerful emotions and physical sensations. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one example of intrusive thoughts, emotional disturbances, and negative self-esteem beliefs.

What Can I Expect During EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy involves eight phases. As we work together to determine if EMDR therapy is right for you, the first sessions will discuss what you want to work on and improve your ability to deal with distress. When you’re ready for the subsequent phases of EMDR therapy, you’ll choose a specific event to focus on. 

We will focus on a negative image, belief, emotion, and physical feeling connected to the event, then follow with a positive thought proving to resolve the memory. Your therapist will begin side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or tapping while you concentrate on the distressing event. In each set, we guide you to observe what comes to mind. Depending on the event, you may experience shifts in insights or changes in images, feelings, or beliefs.

Any time you wish, you may stop the therapist. We repeat each set of eye movements, sounds, or tappings until the event is no longer annoying. The eight phases of EMDR therapy are:

  • Phase 1: Digging into your History
  • Phase 2: Preparing you 
  • Phase 3: Assessment of target memory
  • Phases 4-7: Applying adaptive resolution to memory for processing
  • Phase 8: Evaluating treatment results

It takes one to three sessions to process a particular memory. Compared to other trauma-focused treatments, EMDR does not include:

  • Extended exposure to the distressing memory
  • Elaborating on the trauma
  • Challenging dysfunctional beliefs
  • Assigning homework 

What Happens Afterwards?

The goal of EMDR is to help understand, manage, and resolve traumatic memories. Trauma and addiction often have strong links, making EMDR an essential tool for understanding the emotional triggers of addiction.

After you undergo EMDR sessions to overcome something you dread, your life will change somehow. As you learn about the things that frighten you, you realize they aren’t as scary as you think. When you undergo EMDR, you get a much better sense of what is a threat to you and what you can easily handle. Though you’ll still remember the memory, it will feel smaller, quieter, and less significant. It would be like someone turning down the volume on your problem. 

While you can still hear if you pay attention, it is no longer bothersome, so it is not a genuine concern. Studies suggest EMDR is a safe and effective therapy. World Health Organization (WHO) and American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend it for individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

At Arcara Personalized Psychiatry, we employ evidence-based treatment methods to help clients with addictions and mental health issues. It doesn’t have to be this way. Traumatic memories and distressing situations don’t have to be a constant presence in your life. EMDR therapy is an innovative treatment that can help you regain your mental health. Let us help you on your way. To learn more, contact us today.

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