No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a method of therapy for dealing with unresolved trauma and distressing life events that often produces more rapid results than traditional talk therapy. EMDR is used to treat a variety of problems, including:
- Anxiety and Depression
- Sexual Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Emotional Abuse
- Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse or Neglect
- Adult Relationship Trauma
- Betrayal Trauma
- Unresolved Family of Origin Issues
- Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Disturbing Memories
- Performance Anxiety
- Unresolved Grief
- Stress Management
EMDR can be beneficial for treating trauma associated with single, overwhelming life events or the more chronic, repetitive types of trauma that occur in our relationships.
|Single Event Traumas
- Rape Trauma
- Crime victimization
- Natural Disasters such as fires, floods, earthquakes, etc.
- Car Wrecks
|Repetitive Relationship Trauma
- Marriage Betrayal (e.g., lies, affairs)
- Abandonment Issues
- Divorce Recovery
- Relationship Violence
- Exposure to Chronic Violence
Although the exact neurobiological mechanisms associated with EMDR's success are still being researched, the therapy appears to tap into the healing power of your own body by helping the creative (right hemisphere) and analytical (left hemisphere) sides of the brain to communicate more effectively. It does this by using what is called bilateral stimulation, which is a fancy name for stimulation of the alternating sides of your brain. It's kind of like helping you to rock back and forth between the right and left hemispheres of your brain. The bilateral stimulation results in a release of the negative emotion that is attached to the unresolved trauma.
Some examples of bilateral stimulation used in EMDR are moving the eyes from side to side by focusing on an object or light, alternating tapping of the hands, sounds in alternating ears with a set of headphones, or any combination of these.
How Does EMDR Work?
Disturbing experiences are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts, and feelings that accompanied them. When you become very upset, your brain is unable to process the experience as it would normally. The negative thoughts and feelings connected to the disturbing event have become trapped in your nervous system. Since your brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and the associated feelings may be kept from conscious awareness. The distress, however, lives on in your nervous system and causes disturbances in your emotional functioning.
EMDR unlocks the negative memories and emotions stored in your nervous system and then helps your brain successfully process the experience so that the memory is re-experienced in a new, less distressing way. The memory remains, but the intense negative response is neutralized and anxiety and depression associated with the memory can heal.
What Is EMDR Therapy Like?
You will probably spend 2-4 sessions providing background information and identifying specific memories or issues to target during the desensitization procedure, before moving on to a brief phase of establishing positive resources and coping behaviors that you can use during and after the EMDR.
If you are used to more traditional therapies, EMDR may seem quite different. This is because it avoids the long, drawn out talk therapy approach that can inadvertently reinforce staying stuck on specific aspects of your trauma, and in doing so actually blocks the moving through and processing of traumatic memories. If distressing thoughts, feelings, and body sensations arise, you will be directed to notice briefly and then allow the bilateral stimulation to move you on through it. You won't need to spend a lot of time describing or trying to control your reactions. You will neither stuff your emotions, nor be overwhelmed by them. Instead they will simply transform as your brain and body work together toward your own healing.
|The red areas indicate over-activity in the brain.
|Brain of a female with PTSD.
|Brain of the same female after 4 EMDR sessions.
How Many Sessions Will It Take?
The number of sessions the therapy will take will vary depending on a) whether you are dealing with a single traumatic event or repetitive, chronic traumas, b) the number of target issues you want to address, and c) your individualized response to EMDR.
How Long Are EMDR Sessions?
The session length typically takes 45 to 90 minutes. If you are dealing with a very distressing or very ingrained issue, you may want to schedule a planned 90 minutes or longer session, or arrange for the option of going beyond the standard 45 minute session if needed. It is common, however, to address a target issue over multiple 45 minute sessions. Regardless of whether you complete the reprocessing phase for a specific issue during a single session or across multiple sessions, your brain will continue to process and integrate changes between sessions. Your therapist can provide you with a homework tool to help you track those changes between sessions.
What is an Evidenced-Based Treatment?
EMDR is considered an evidenced-based treatment. This means that there are research studies that show that treatments with EMDR result in reduction or elimination of the targeted emotion or memory.
What is the Feeling-State Addiction Protocol?
The Feeling-State Addiction Protocol (FSAP) is a new form of EMDR that is based on the Feeling-State Theory of Addiction. This theory presumes that the onset of sex or pornography addiction begins with an event in which the sensations, emotions, thoughts and behaviors result in a positve, pleasurable, or intense experience that locks that experience in memory. The feeling state associated with that memory becomes fixed and the addicted individual then attempts to replicate the intensity of that experience. The quest for the feeling state may operate at an unconscious level or become less obvious over time. FSAP is used to identify and disconnet the feeling state from the addictive behavior. FSAP is typically followed by traditional EMDR to help the individual reconnect the feeling state with more adaptive, healthier behaviors.
If you would like to learn more about how EMDR might be helpful to you, please contact me.
What is Somatic Experiencing®?
Therapists who treat trauma have long known that "the body remembers" trauma. In fact, if you have ever felt triggered then you know that the body is activated when your hot button is pushed, even if you're not really sure what the button is about or how it got pushed.
Like EMDR, Somatic Experiencing works with your natural brain processes to promote healing. It is a naturalistic therapy for releasing the unresolved Big T, Little t, and relational trauma that is stored in your body. Somatic Experiencing was developed as a therapy for healing trauma by Dr. Peter Levine, an internationally recognized expert on trauma, stress consultant for NASA during the space shuttle development, and 2010 recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award from the United States Association for Body Psychotherapy.
How Does Somatic Experiencing Work?
Somatic Experiencing works by bypassing the higher cognitive centers of the brain and working with sensations that are associated with the primitive part of the brain by way of the Autonomic Nervous System. It uses body awareness and body sensations to gently and gradually release the emotion and energy from those body memories.
Unlike EMDR, which may target the worst part of the trauma first, Somatic Experiencing works from the outside edges inward to the core of the trauma. While the pace may be slower than with EMDR, the discharge of the traumatic activation from your nervous system can be very powerful. With this release your nervous system can return to equilibrium and healing can take place.
To learn more about Somatic Experiencing®, contact me.