Trauma Therapy ~ EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
What is EMDR?
EMDR is multi-faceted in that it reprocesses memories, as well as can help process residual memories within the body.
Have you ever gone to bed feeling unsure and upset about a situation, but the next day you wake up feeling like you have clarity? What you experienced was your brain reactivating the memory to that it could process it through REM sleep. EMDR is similar to this in the way that it helps our brain reprocess memories that have previously been unprocessed.
For most, memories are held and there is very little charge that is associated with that memory. However, for someone that has experienced a stressful or traumatic experience, their memories of this event can hold a lot of charge. So what does it mean for a memory to hold a charge? It means that the memory is stored in the brain in such a way that it contains vivid pictures, sounds, body sensations, or thoughts.
Trauma is very body oriented. Most often, we think that the only part of our bodies affected by trauma is our brain. In fact it is somewhat the opposite. Trauma is very body-oriented. When our body senses danger, it goes into fight or flight and adrenaline is released throughout our entire body. Therefore, when someone traumatic occurs, our body is very much involved in the process. Therefore, our body can produce body memories, which is the body remembering the trauma, rather than the brain and physically gives the feeling that was had during the trauma.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR uses bilateral stimulation through alternating eye movements. These alternating eye movements help the brain to reprocess the way memories are stored. Once the memory is processed, it no longer holds the charge that it once did.
Throughout EMDR body sensations, thoughts, emotions and memories can resurface. These can be fairly vivid in the beginning. However, the purpose of EMDR is to minimize the disturbance that these memories hold and have them hold the significance that any other memory would hold.
How long does EMDR therapy usually take?
As with all therapy, the amount of sessions vary based on the client and what they are experiencing. Sessions are catered to each individual client.
Typically though, there at least 3-4 sessions at minimum prior to starting the EMDR processing begins. Again, depending on the client, this amount could be more or less.
Once the EMDR processing begins, there may be 4-6 additional sessions, but again, it may be necessary for more sessions.
Misconceptions of EMDR
1. EMDR is hypnosis
EMDR is not hypnosis. You are completely in control of your body the entire time that EMDR is occurring. You can stop at anytime simply by saying stop or raising your hand.
2. EMDR erases your memories
A common misconception of EMDR is that it will erase the memories that one has. This is not the case. Throughout EMDR, the goal is to acknowledge the memory without the charge coming along with it. For example: Lets say that someone was in a car accident. Prior to EMDR, they would most likely have body memories, flashbacks, possible nightmares, and a rush of emotions. After completing EMDR and reprocessing the car accident, they would still remember that the car accident happened, but they would not have the physiological response and their nightmares would subside. The goal is to be able to recognize a memory without having such a negative response to it. They can recognize that happened, but they would understand that they survived the accident and are able to think back on it without such a charged response.
EMDR can actually help people remember memories that they may have forgotten. This is not guaranteed to happen every time, but it is possible.