Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing – Is It Right for you?
If you are feeling trapped and experiencing painful recurring memories, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) may be an option for you. Recurring, distressing memories may make one feel like they are being triggered by external and internal stimuli making it challenging to live a fulfilled life. It is common for people to experience stress immediately after a traumatic incident, and many people can recover from the tragedy and resume life within a few months — however, some experience prolonged stress levels known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD is defined as a set of reactions that develop in people who have been through a distressing event that has threatened their life or safety. Associated feelings may include: re-experiencing them painful situation, avoiding any situation that reminds you of the trauma, increased feelings of anxiety and depression, emotional dysregulation (when your emotions take control of you), and negative thoughts. The two primary components of the therapeutic process are to decrease reactions to the traumatic memories and to create positive feelings.
EMDR treatment is proven to help reduce symptoms related to depression, PTSD, anxiety, addictions, phobias, and emotional distress. EMDR allows one to heal even if the triggered memories are not discussed, releasing emotional experiences that are trapped in the nervous system.
There are a few simple steps that outline the process of EMDR. A trained clinician works with the client to recall a distressing thought, feeling, or memory. This is followed by bilateral stimulation (BLS), often explained as a ping pong game with your eyes. The BLS involves bilateral visual (eye movement), auditory, or sensory stimulation (e.g., tactile stimulation). The BLS requires you to move your eyes back and forth in a side-to-side pattern. This exercise is guided by your therapist, who assesses whether the BLS is appropriate for your presenting concerns.
The two main stages of EMDR therapy are desensitization of traumatic memories and the development of a “resource,” such as pleasant thoughts. Clinicians implement the EMDR model while considering attachment experiences and the cultural framework and how the impact of those experiences create the client’s negative beliefs. By focusing on negative feelings that are a result of early experiences and traumatic events, we can implement EMDR treatment to appreciate and allow clients to tell their stories along with processing distressing memories.
The EMDR model and its treatment methods have validated effectiveness and adaptability across a wide range of cultural contexts, healing the impact of culturally-based trauma. EMDR involves discussing traumatic events, identifying and altering thoughts, and resourcing using our current coping skills. EMDR gives clinicians another tool during therapy to allow clients to express their stories and leave the session feeling contained and fulfilled.