What can I expect?
It is important for you to know that during EMDR treatment, you will remain in control, fully alert and wide-awake. This is not a form of hypnosis and you can stop the process at any time.
Throughout the session, the therapist will support and facilitate your own self-healing and intervene as little as possible. Reprocessing is usually experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral and somatic therapies with bilateral stimulation. It involves recalling a stressful past event and “reprocessing” the memory. This is done within the context of a positive, self-chosen belief, while using rhythmic, alternating stimulation to facilitate the process. This stimulation may be in the form of eye movements, hand taps, audible tones, or hand held tactile devices.
How does EMDR work?
No one knows completely how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically. However, when you experience a traumatizing event or are repeatedly subjected to distress (e.g. childhood neglect), your natural ability to process information and your natural coping mechanisms 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 EMDR be used for?
In addition to its use for the treatment of trauma, EMDR has been successfully used to treat:
- Anxiety & Stress
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Sleep problems
- Pain relief
EMDR can accelerate therapy by resolving the impact of your past traumas and allowing you to live more fully in the present. It is not, however, appropriate for everyone. The process is rapid, and any disturbing experiences, if they occur at all, last for a comparatively short period of time. Nevertheless, you need to be aware of, and willing to experience, the strong feelings and disturbing thoughts, which sometimes occur during sessions.