What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it is the Gold-Standard for Trauma therapy. Clients who have engaged in this practice work through difficult past experiences so rapidly, often quicker than they ever thought.Together we work with creating rapport in the therapeutic relationship, build resourcing skills, focusing on the areas of struggle you are experiencing, and then systematically work through painful experiences and coming to a grounded place on the other side.
Clients regularly report that this experience is far less painful than the actual events, and less painful than the process of intrusive memories replaying on their own. The reason for this is due to how the desensitization process works. Together, we explore these memories in a way that allows them to play through your mind like a film on a theater screen. We work through the specific event until there is no more disturbance related to the memory, which usually happens in one EMDR session. We work through the different aspects of painful memories until the charge from them have been let go. Clients often report that this process has given them their lives and relationships back.
EMDR Therapy is a specific form of therapy for people who have experienced stressful and/or traumatic experiences from:
- military service
- painful experiences from childhood
- abusive relationships
- medical procedures and illness
- history of incarceration
- sexual assault
- prolonged chronic stress at home or at work
- difficulty healing from betrayal or loss in relationship
- difficulty getting over an issue from the past
- difficulty with persistent anxieties or concerns about the future
- persistently painful emotional states
- desire to improve performances related to sports, academics, theater and music, etc.
How Long Does It Take?
Each session runs either 50 minutes or 80 minutes, depending on how your specific mind processes the events. I generally start everyone with an 80 minute EMDR Therapy sessions, to gauge how your mind is likely to respond. This is important, because we want to make each session as effective as possible.
The length of treatment varies depending on the history of each person; however we can decide in advance what we will work on. Depending on how early trauma began occurring for a person, and how pervasive it was, sessions can be between 10 sessions for single event, and longer for people who have experienced persistent early childhood trauma. The rule of thumb is that the earlier the traumas began, the longer it takes to heal them as these memories are formed in the very beginning of brain development. All that being said, people regularly report feeling so much better after working with only a handful of difficult experiences.
How Does EMDR Work In the Brain?
When we experience a painful, stressful, or traumatic event the areas of the primitive brain related to emotion are triggered. If the event is too much for the brain to handle at the time, it can flood out the parts of the brain related to moving experiences from active memory to long-term memory. Essentially the experience has a time stamp in, but no ending or time stamp out.Even though, logically, we may know that the event is over, it can still be easily triggered because it is stored in active memory. This is why , for instance, veterans who hear a car backfire may think it is gunfire may become very upset. Their logical selves know they are no longer in the war; however, the part of the brain that stores trauma does not know that it is over.
The reason the EMDR protocol works is that trauma memories are stored in a part of the brain that is difficult to access and heal during standard talk therapy, but the desensitization process allows us drop into the part of the brain where these trauma memories got stuck. When we experience a high stress event the part of the brain that helps move experiences to long-term memory is no longer online as it is overwhelmed as well. With EMDR we are able keep that part of the brain online, allowing these thoughts to move out of active memory, and back to long-term memory where it belongs.
WILL I lose these memories all together?
No, doing EMDR Therapy doesn't mean that these bad experiences didn't happen, but that the stress of them happening is no longer stressful in this moment. You won't lose the memories at all. Instead, you will be able to look back at what happened and have a greater sense of closure and peace.