EMDR for Trauma & PTSD
The term "trauma" refers to a psychological or emotional response to a traumatic event in an individual's life. Examples of traumatic experiences can include being present during a natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane, experiencing physical or sexual assault, or witnessing a violent act against another person. Less obvious events may also be considered traumatic such as having an absent parent as a child, losing a job, or losing a friend group. The effects of traumatic experiences on certain individuals can last for years and may lead to symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Individuals with anxiety and PTSD often experience negative emotions and may become triggered by distressing memories that remind them of the traumatic event. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of therapy designed to help reduce or completely eliminate symptoms of emotional distress caused by traumatic memories.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy in which body-based bilateral stimulation techniques are used to help the brain fully process memories that it has been unable to do on its own. When an individual is traumatized, it is believed that the brain is unable to process memories correctly which results in the body getting stuck in a “fight, flight, or freeze” response. The memories feel very present to the sufferer, which can lead them to overreact to any stimuli that remind them of the traumatic event. By reprocessing these memories with EMDR, individuals can begin the healing process and move forward in their lives.
How Is EMDR Therapy Used to Help Treat Trauma and PTSD?
During an EMDR session, the client undergoing therapy is encouraged to focus on the traumatic events or distressing memories that are contributing to their post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms. As the client brings up the traumatic memories in the safe environment of our office, they are simultaneously instructed to watch a ball going back and forth on a tablet to enable EMDR processing, mimicking Rapid Eye-Movement (REM) sleep.
While specific results can vary depending on the extent of the client's trauma or processing speed, it is believed that the client's eye movements paired with bringing up traumatic memories, allows the brain to fully process events that it had been unable to do on its own. This therapy technique mimics the biological functions that occur during REM sleep, which allows the client to process them in a conscious, rather than subconscious, state.
As the client faces the unsettling memories head-on, EMDR helps move them out of the past and into the present. The theory behind EMDR is that as the memories are fully processed, the individual will move out of the “flight, fright, or freeze” response to their trauma. Over time, EMDR therapy can help prevent the individual from becoming anxious or distressed when they're reminded of their past traumas.
Is EMDR an Effective Treatment for Trauma and PTSD?
While the overall effectiveness of therapy can vary from person to person, research has shown that EMDR treatments can greatly improve symptoms of trauma and PTSD in single-trauma victims, multiple-trauma victims, and even individuals with complex PTSD. EMDR treatments have also shown promise in combat veterans who suffer from PTSD.
At EMDR and Counseling Center, we approach EMDR therapy in two phases. First, we work one-on-one with each client to help them identify the source of their symptoms and then work to reduce the intensity of their negative emotions and PTSD symptoms using EMDR. Once the source of the underlying issues is resolved, we utilize EMDR techniques to install a positive belief about the client’s ability to move past their trauma.
For example, if an individual is struggling with distressing memories following a physical assault, the initial memory may trigger feelings of fear, hopelessness, and anxiety. During an EMDR session, our therapist would first target the negative emotions from the experience and help the client process them with EMDR until the event is no longer triggering and the negative emotions associated with it are either drastically reduced or completely eliminated. The therapist would then help the client identify a positive belief such as, "I'm a survivor" or "I am strong," which would be reinforced with EMDR. When combined with eye and hand movement bilateral stimulation, the negative beliefs from trauma reduce in importance, while the positive beliefs remain at the forefront of the subconscious.
Why EMDR and Counseling Center for EMDR Therapy?
At EMDR and Counseling Center, our mission is to help our clients successfully overcome the fears, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms that stem from traumatic experiences. We're confident that EMDR therapy can provide effective, lasting results in less time and more thoroughly than traditional psychotherapy. Our licensed therapists are highly trained and experienced and work one-on-one with every client to help them develop the tools and skills to effectively move past their trauma and look forward to a brighter future.