Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” ~ Mandy Hale
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy method that helps relieve posttraumatic stress. Additionally, it enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress of disturbing life experiences. EMDR is used both to reduce fears and anxiety and to strengthen feelings of calm and confidence.
How EMDR was Discovered?
In 1987, Dr. Francine Shapiro discovered that eye movement can help make memories less upsetting. One day when she was walking in the park, she was bothered by some disturbing memories. As she walked, the memories became less disturbing. She wondered what she had been doing that made the memories less upsetting. She realized that she had been moving her eyes quickly back and forth. At the time, Dr. Shapiro was a psychologist helping war veterans. She wondered whether her clients would feel less upset by memories of war if she guided them to move their eyes back and forth. It worked! Since that time, EMDR has evolved into a sophisticated method for treating trauma, anxiety, and stress.
Traumatic events surrounding a loved one’s death resulted in my reliving the loss over and over. The images and intense feelings would not subside. The experience went beyond grieving and seemed to take over my life. The negative memory impacted me to the point that I could not sleep. After receiving the EMDR treatment, the memory stayed but it no longer had its devastatingly negative influence over me. I was able to begin a healthier grieving process.
Traumatic events surrounding a loved one’s death resulted in my reliving the loss over and over. The images and intense feelings would not subside. The experience went beyond grieving and seemed to take over my life. The negative memory impacted me to the point that I could not sleep. After receiving the EMDR treatment the memory stayed, but it no longer had its devastatingly negative influence over me. I was able to begin a healthier grieving process.Marcia, Green Bay, WI
How EMDR Helps Our Brain
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. We can think of our brain as having the ability to process or digest information. There are times, particularly during trauma or significant stress, when our brains’ innate ability to digest is disrupted. It’s similar to indigestion when we eat something that doesn’t agree with us. In a very real way, trauma creates indigestion for our brains. This results in stress responses.
Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of being overwhelmed, being back in that moment, or of being frozen in time. The process of EMDR has been found to help our brains do what they were meant to do. Our brains process events. We keep what is helpful while releasing the negatively charged emotions and upsetting images and thoughts.
Facts about EMDR
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
EMDR involves rapid eye movements done by the individual as he/she thinks about a past event or current situation. These rapid eye movements are similar to those that occur during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the state where dreaming occurs. However, EMDR is done while a person is fully awake and thinking about the trauma or distress he/she is experiencing.
Although the therapist assists in maintaining the eye movement and processing information that comes up, the resolution for the issues comes from within the individual’s mind. The resolution usually emerges spontaneously as the negative feelings are cleared. The therapist does not usually suggest, either directly or indirectly, how the issues are to be resolved.
In response to EMDR, anxiety, anger, and guilt are frequently reduced very rapidly. A variety of symptoms that often follow traumatic events also are reduced. These symptoms include intrusive recollections, reliving the event avoidance, numbing, and symptoms of hyper-arousal such as sleep disturbance, irritability, and difficulty concentrating.
EMDR is neither intrusive nor aversive. This process is not hypnosis. The individual remains fully alert and in control of his/her choices.
Who Can Benefit from EMDR
EMDR therapy helps people of all ages. Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of challenges including:
- Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
- Eating disorders
- PTSD and other trauma or stress-related events
- Sleep disturbances
EMDR changed my life. I had recurring thoughts of my son almost drowning in a lake, seeing him blue, not breathing, then coming around, spitting up the water. It was a ‘tape’ that played in my head like a movie. EMDR stopped all of that. I can now think of the incident and not go into a panic mode. Praise the Lord for this therapy!Holly, Manitowac, WI