If you have gone through an unwanted, painful experience, you may be finding it difficult to feel safe and stable. It may seem as though you are stuck reliving the traumatic event over and over again, especially when you are faced with a sight, sound, smell or other sensation that brings you back to the terror you felt. Perhaps you feel exhausted by the need to stay hyperviligant, but you can’t stop fearing that you’ll be hurt again. It may be that you’ve experienced a loss, bullying or something else that’s made you doubt your worth or purpose, but you feel ashamed and question if it was really “that bad.” Whether the experience happened recently or long ago, you may worry that you have no control over your life or your future.
Although the pain of trauma can be overwhelming and isolating, you are not alone or weak for what you are going through. Many people experience a traumatic event at some point in their lives, sometimes without realizing it until years or even decades later. It’s possible to forget or bury a traumatic experience until something else—such as a period of high stress, conflict in a relationship or even a particular smell associated with what happened—triggers all those feelings of fear and pain.
Trauma can result from any life-threatening or deeply distressing event, such as a car accident, assault, invasive surgery, natural disaster or death of a loved one or pet. Sometimes, people experience ongoing abuse, neglect or exposure to violence. And, it’s important to note that “smaller” or more common situations, including bullying, the loss of a job, conflict in your social group or the end of a relationship, can also profoundly impact your wellbeing.
Thankfully, no matter what happened or how it is affecting you today, EMDR therapy can help.
Movies, television shows, social media feeds and other messaging often depict the ideal of a “perfect” relationship, which can make it all the more painful when it seems that your relationship doesn’t meet that standard. In truth, however, no relationship is perfect, and there is hope to reconnect with your partner and build a supportive, trusting relationship.
EMDR is an acronym for a therapeutic technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The form of trauma therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in 1987. EMDR incorporates elements from various treatment modalities and is known to be a highly effective treatment for many types of emotional distress.
EMDR is used to heal symptoms of trauma and other emotional conditions, such as grief, addiction and eating disorders. Extensive scientific research studies have shown EMDR to be the most effective treatment for healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Source: Mayo Clinic
Disturbing events often stay with us. One moment can become frozen in time; images, sounds, smells and feelings can feel as if they are happening in the present, as though the threat never really ended. These memories have a lasting negative effect and can interfere with how you see the world and relate to others. They can also interrupt your ability to engage in the present moment, sustain trusting relationships, concentrate in the workplace and fulfill daily tasks, including self-care.
Intellectual and emotional processing occur in different areas of the brain. Even though you may know that you are “okay,” that is not necessarily how you feel. You may know that you are “good enough,” “safe enough” and “smart enough,” but feel “different,” “vulnerable” and “stupid.” EMDR helps connect what you know to what you feel. This allows the brain to process past experiences and begin to heal.
EMDR has positive effects on how the brain processes information. It helps people let things go. Following an EMDR session, you can find that you no longer relive the trauma. While you can still recall that the incident happened, the incident will longer upset you or disrupt your ability to live a fulfilling life.
During EMDR therapy, you will attend to a disturbing memory, trigger, or specific problem, while simultaneously focusing on a set of bilateral stimulation (eye movements, hand taps or tones). After each set, you will share any associations that come up (pictures, thoughts, feelings, body sensations, etc.) with your trauma therapist. You will continue to do sets of bilateral stimulation until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about who you are.
No. You will be fully awake and alert during an EMDR therapy session. Like hypnosis, however, EMDR seems to work with the unconscious mind and helps bring repressed thoughts and feelings into consciousness.
A typical EMDR session lasts for 60 minutes. The amount of trauma therapy sessions needed is determined by the specific problem and the extent of trauma you have experienced.
One of the worst parts of trauma is feeling alone with it. Your trauma therapist can help you “undo” that sense of aloneness and feel supported, validated and understood. And, it’s very difficult to resolve trauma completely on your own. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help.
Your therapist will work closely with you to honor your needs and proceed through the therapy process with care. While you will briefly relive the experience, therapy can also help you release it. The trauma will not be erased or forgotten, but you can feel empowered to understand its impact without re-experiencing it throughout your life.
EMDR can help you find relief from:
EMDR can work in conjunction with standard psychotherapy (with or without the same therapist), or it can be used as a treatment all by itself.