EMDR Treatment for Trauma
EMDR Relieves PTSD from Sexual & Physical Trauma, Medical Procedures such as Birth & Surgical Trauma and Crime
There is no one way to “treat” trauma. Everyone is different and everyone moves at their own pace. I’ve trained in multiple methods to help stabilize and calm persons with trauma, help put the traumatic memories to rest and help reconnect the traumatized person to herself and to others.
I integrate EMDR as a tool into my regular psychotherapy practice, along with other techniques such as guided imagery and expressive art. Somatic therapies complement verbal therapies to help access inner stillness even during an emotional storm, to provide access and calming to the emotional brain, to provide integration of right and left brain memory fragments, and to build reconnection to the authentic self and to others. My approach is to help you release your energy so you can access your natural resilience and let your body and mind heal.
That being said, EMDR has thirty years of research to support its efficacy. The United States Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) cites EMDR as an evidence-based treatment, many VA hospitals recommend EMDR as treatment for combat veterans, and the both the Israeli and Irish governments have approved EMDR as an efficacious treatment for trauma.
Working with both the mind and body, EMDR therapy integrates images, thoughts, feelings and body signals to consolidate disparate memories of traumatic events. EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD, over 30 years ago. The letters EMDR stand for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, which is a confusing name. Not all therapists, including myself, use eye movement as part of the EMDR treatment. EMDR treatments can be based on auditory or somatic input as well.
In my practice, I use somatic, or tactile, input as part of the EMDR treatment process. The tactile part is very simple. You hold 1 small, non-invasive plastic paddles in each hand that produces a mild buzzing feeling back and forth as we process your traumatic memories and feelings.
The idea of EMDR is that within a safe holding environment, the client has sufficient resiliency to heal himself. The EMDR therapy allows the bodymind to re-process traumatic memories in a safe, therapeutic manner. EMDR therapy works in your brain much like the consolidation of memories process that occurs during REM sleep. And the client can then ascribe meaning to the event and regain a sense of personal mastery.
“Regular” memories are consolidated into long term memory during REM sleep in an organized manner. The memory of the event, or the narrative, the emotions, the sensory parts (visual, tactile, auditory) and the meaning associated with the event are stored across the brain in different areas and linked up as a coherent whole. That’s why a pleasant fragrance will trigger the full bodied memory associated with it. The smell of cookies baking may remind you of an event in your life, such as baking cookies with your grandmother. The fully embodied memory of the cookie baking will be pulled up with the event, such as the feelings of warmth and comfort, the touch of the flour and dough on your hands, the heat of the oven its he kitchen, the color of the walls, the sound of your grandma’s voice, the sounds of music on the background, etc. The memories are stored as organized, fully embodied experiences. The stories and the accompanying feelings have a beginning, middle and end.
Traumatic memories, however, are stored differently in your body. They are not properly arranged as an autobiographical story. Usually the traumatized person cannot say precisely what had happened, there are gaps in the sequence of events. The emotions and sensory input surrounding the event are disconnected from the event itself and comes out in imagery and feelings of panic, terror and body sensations at unexpected times. The entire experience is has not been stored and it not processed through the brain in a coherent manner.
Because of the fragmented way traumatic memories are stored in the brain, the entirety of the experience (emotional and physical) is not moved or processed through the brain and nervous system and consolidated in a natural manner during sleep. During REM sleep, we process the experiences of the day into memory and consolidate emotional learning.
Through EMDR, reprocessing and integration of traumatic imagery, feelings, thoughts and memories is possible in a safe, respectful manner that does not re-traumatize the client.
EMDR helps relieve the dissociation, emotional distress and numbing that often haunts adult survivors of sexual abuse and other trauma. EMDR helps integrate the traumatic experiences into the concept of the self, helps recreate a more in-depth personal narrative and thus helps people feel whole again.
The EMDR technique was first solely used as a way to treat and reprocess major trauma and PTSD. EMDR helps reprocess and integrate long-standing traumatic memories, feelings and thoughts about events such as childhood sexual and physical abuse, childhood neglect, trauma from necessary medical procedures, care accidents, interpersonal domestic violence and crime.
I integrate EMDR into my regular psychotherapy practice, along with other techniques such as guided imagery and expressive art. Somatic therapies complement verbal therapies to provide access and integration of right and left brain memory fragments. My approach is to release your energy to move towards your natural resilience and let your heal your body and mind yourself.
For more information, here are some links to research regarding the efficacy of EMDR.
Here is a three part article about EMDR and its use to process birth trauma: Part One, Using EMDR to treat Birth Trauma. Part Two, Using EMDR and Safety in Treating Birth Trauma Part Three, Listening to Women