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  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

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    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

    It’s happening again

    You’re feeling stuck, and frustrated with yourself. Maybe there are things that have happened to you that cause you physical or emotional pain. These things weren’t your fault and they were out of your control, yet you carry the burden of guilt or shame. 

    There’s a heaviness about it. 

    It’s holding you back from doing the things that make you happy and from being the person you want to be. 

    You might be thinking that this is just your life now. Your hope for a positive shift is hanging on by a thread…Then you learn about EMDR. It sounds a little ‘woo-woo’ and you’re unsure how it works, but apparently, it’s a widely used evidence-based treatment that has offered psychological, and even physical, relief to thousands of people struggling with experiences similar to yours. But seriously, what is EMDR and how does it even work?!

    EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing that aims to transform maladaptively stored memory networks into adaptive information in order to increase your ability to respond to present-day stressors appropriately. EMDR utilizes a model of Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), which allows you the opportunity to face disturbing thoughts, feelings, sensations from past experiences in order to resolve these disturbances while maintaining safety in the present.

    “The information is essentially frozen in time, isolated in its own neural network, and stored in its originally disturbing state. Because the intensity of the information has locked the memory into a restricted network, the neural network becomes isolated. No new learning can take place. Therefore, when thoughts of the incident arise, they are still connected to all the negative attributes of the original event”. – Francine Shapiro, PhD

    Okay that sounds great, but you may be asking “How is that even possible?” 

    Well, when your brain’s information processing network is activated and combined with bilateral stimulation, an associative process allows relevant connections to be made and then moves toward an adaptive resolution. 

    Once useful information is stored and available to inform future experiences, the maladaptive information is discarded. These newly formed, adaptive memory networks become the foundation for positive behavior changes, improved self-esteem, and strengthened ability to learn. 

    Now, you might be wondering what the heck bilateral stimulation means. Valid thought!  Essentially, bilateral stimulation is the process of alternately stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain. This can be done by focusing your eyes on a stimulus that moves back and forth at a consistent pace. However, bilateral stimulation can also effectively be implemented through alternating auditory cues or physical tapping. This process creates a dual experience of engaging your brain in the present moment, while also taxing the working memory so it can be fully integrated into the present without getting sucked into the past. This results in a decreased intensity of the negative thoughts, emotions, and sensations associated with the memory.

    What can you expect when you participate in EMDR treatment with a certified mental health professional?

    Your therapist will usually spend the first one-three sessions getting to know you and your experiences. They will ask targeted questions to gather information about your presenting struggles and past experiences that might have made a negative impact on your mental health. 

    You may also be encouraged  to complete additional assessments or questionnaires in an effort to better understand your needs.  We will then work together to create treatment goals and identify target memories to process. 

    Your therapist will demonstrate methods for bilateral stimulation and you will decide which one feels most comfortable for you. Before processing begins, your therapist will lead you through a grounding exercise to assist you in creating an internal resource that you can use in between sessions. This is known as the Safe Place/Calm State. It is also important to note that you and your therapist will identify an agreed upon ‘Stop Signal’ that you can use at any point during your EMDR treatment if you need to take a break. The amount of time needed to fully reprocess each memory depends upon how old you were when the disturbing event occurred, as well as the intensity of the emotion associated with the memory. 

    What If I don’t have “Trauma”?

    We often hear concerns from clients that their experiences aren’t “that bad”. The truth is that trauma takes many forms. In fact, the following are all defined as adverse childhood experiences, which often result in the formation of traumatic memories:

    -Living in poverty or poor quality housing

    -Discrimination and marginalization

    -Lack of opportunity or economic mobility

    -Historical/Generational trauma

    -Emotional, physical, and sexual abuse

    -Exposure to domestic violence

    -Emotional and physical neglect

    -Substance abuse in the home

    -Parental separation/divorce

    -Household member incarcerated

    -Household family history of depression or suicide attempts 

    A diagnosis of PTSD is NOT required to participate in EMDR. In fact, this treatment model has effectively treated individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and substance abuse as well. If any part of this page has resonated with you at all, you deserve to experience the relief that EMDR can provide. We cannot tell you that it will be an easy process, but we can confidently say that it has the potential to change your life for the better.

    As you explore the path to healing, know that you’re not alone. EMDR therapy offers a sense of hope, resilience, and the potential for profound change. Your story is significant, and healing is attainable. Take that initial stride toward reclaiming your life today. Reach out, and let’s chat about how this can work for you. After all, you deserve the peace and joy waiting for you.