Discovering Joy: How EMDR Therapy Can Transform Your Life
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is a type of psychotherapy that was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro. It is a well-established therapy used to treat a range of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and phobias. EMDR therapy is based on the idea that when a traumatic or distressing event occurs, it can become "stuck" in the brain, causing symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and emotional distress. If you’ve been curious about the treatment everyone is talking about, you’re in the right place!
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, therapy is an evidenced based treatment that can help you overcome many present-day symptoms and negative emotional experiences by looking at your memories.
A variety of bilateral stimulation techniques like eye movements, audio, and tapping are used throughout treatment.
Bilateral stimulation is theorized to work similar to when we're in REM sleep - the eye movements that happen naturally in our sleep are similar to what happens during EMDR treatment, and helps to restart the memory system to process the stuck traumatic memories.
According to Shapiro and Forrest (2016), more than 7 million individuals have been treated successfully by EMDR since 2016.
EMDR is recognized as an effective treatment by the following organizations and more:
What is trauma?
In EMDR, it is believed that each person possesses the ability to self-heal and adapt. Our brains naturally process memories as adaptive information.
When a trauma or difficult event occurs, and the event is incompletely processed, it gets stuck in the nervous system where memories are processed and becomes a traumatic memory, which is why sometimes we feel stuck in a memory, or a past event has power over us.
Present day triggers activate and elicit the same emotional response that are stored including: intrusive thoughts, negative emotions, negative beliefs, and body sensations.
Psychopathology is due to maladaptive encoding and/or incomplete processing of difficult and painful life experiences which led to trauma (symptoms).
The brain is wired for SURVIVAL (physical and psychological).
Traumatization is a disruption of the inherent information processing system that normally leads to integration and adaptive resolution following upsetting experiences (van der Kolk & Fisler, 1995).
Big "T" trauma and little "t" traumas still can impact everyday life and are worth processing.
What does an EMDR session look like?
When you begin EMDR therapy, we will do a thorough assessment and history of your current concerns or symptoms, history of your relationships (if relevant), and build our therapeutic relationship.
Before any traumatic or painful memories are processed, we will use a variety of relaxation and visualization techniques to prepare you for any emotional distress that may arise, so you can feel confident that we will get you through to the other side.
We will explore negative beliefs you have about yourself related to your distressing memories, and the positive belief you’d like to have.
As you begin to process, you will be guided through sets of bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tapping, audio, or tactile methods), and you’ll let your brain float wherever it needs to (there’s no right or wrong to this).
You will be asked what you noticed or what came up, and you’ll share a very brief statement about where you’re at before continuing along with sets.
This will continue until you have completely and adaptively processed the memory, and the memory will be desensitized (memories are never erased).
Then, we will work to install a new positive belief associated with the traumatic memory.
We will also look at future situations when you may feel triggered to integrate these adaptive insights and perspectives.
At the end of each session, we will return you to a state of relaxation and calmness.
Demonstration of EMDR
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I have to talk about my trauma repetitively? Do I have to tell my therapist all the details?
No, you don’t need to share the details of your trauma, just minimal information in order to guide processing.
Will this be an emotional process?
You may experience intense emotions throughout processing, however you will be well prepared to manage them. Once you get to the end of processing, many of these intense emotional reactions will subside!
Is this like hypnosis?
No, you will not be in an altered state. You will be in control the whole time.
How fast will EMDR therapy work?
EMDR treatment can lead to quicker recovery than many other therapeutic approaches, however the length of time varies per individual. Sometimes it can take as little as three sessions, and sometimes longer. Sessions typically last between 50-90 minutes.
I’ve been to talk therapy before and didn’t like it. How is this different?
EMDR is unique in that you will not be asked to talk about your trauma or difficult experience repeatedly or in too much depth. Processing happens in your own brain, as uninterrupted as possible, and your therapist acts as a facilitator to help you through the memory.
Is EMDR for me? Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR can address a wide range of challenges, including (but not limited to):
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Depression and bipolar disorders
Grief and loss
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress-related issues
Substance abuse and addiction
Violence and abuse
EMDR therapy may also be helpful for individuals who have experienced a traumatic event or are struggling with difficult emotions or memories.
Research on EMDR
A comprehensive list of research studies on EMDR can be found below:
EMDR therapy is a well-established and effective form of psychotherapy that can help individuals overcome the negative effects of traumatic events and other mental health conditions. If you are considering EMDR therapy, it is important to seek out a trained and licensed therapist who can guide you through the process and provide the support you need to achieve your mental health goals.
If you are interested in exploring EMDR therapy or other types of counseling services, we encourage you to reach out to Taylor Svetlichny, LMFTA, at Discovering Joy Counseling. Taylor is a licensed therapist who is trained in EMDR therapy and has experience working with a range of mental health concerns. You can contact Taylor at (509)850-0771 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment or learn more about her services. Taking the first step towards healing and growth can be challenging, but it can also be the most rewarding decision you make for yourself. Don't hesitate to reach out for support today.
Shapiro, F., & Forrest, M. S. (2016). EMDR: The breakthrough therapy for overcoming anxiety, stress, and trauma. Hachette UK