What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories (Shapiro, 2001). EMDR facilitates the accessing and processing of memories in order to bring them to a healthy resolution through the natural healing process of the brain. After successful treatment with EMDR, distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. During EMDR, you, the client would bring up emotionally disturbing material in brief doses while simultaneously focusing on lateral eye movements by following my hand back and forth.
How does it work?
Most of the time your body routinely manages new information and experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something out of the ordinary occurs, like trauma or another distressing event, your natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in disturbing experiences remaining frozen in your brain or being “unprocessed”. Such unprocessed memories and feelings are stored in the limbic system of your brain in a “raw” and emotional form, rather than in a verbal “story” mode. This limbic system maintains traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is associated with emotions and physical sensations, and which are disconnected from the brain’s cortex where we use language to store memories.
The limbic system’s traumatic memories can be continually triggered when you experience events similar to the difficult experiences you have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are continually triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences can therefore become inhibited. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.
What can we use it for?
- PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- anxiety and panic attacks
- sleep problems
- complicated grief
- pain relief, phantom limb pain
- self-esteem and performance anxiety