Many of us have had a traumatic experience in our lives whether it be sexual assault, childhood abuse, a car accident, loss of a loved one, war, poverty or an intense health scare.
Everyone deals with the pain differently. For some, the pain never goes away and is just as strong as the day or time period when the trauma occurred. Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing, or “EMDR,” is one method used by therapists to help replace negative emotions with neutral or positive ones.
How Does it Work?
Be ready to recount the trauma with your therapist. It may be hard, but know that in your therapist’s care, you are in a safe place to work on the painful memories. Your therapist will guide you through the memories – all the way to the epicenter. Once there, your therapist will quickly switch into a passive, receptive demeanor and ask that you follow their finger as they move it back and forth very quickly. The process, when taken as a whole, helps to incorporate both your emotional being as well as your logical being.
(Note: We recommend EMDR in the presence of a licensed, EMDR trained therapist, however, this self-administered video can give you an idea of what the therapy is like.)
What’s the Science Behind It?
The hippocampus is an organ in the brain that deals with storing emotional memory. When trauma occurs, the logic and reasoning portion of the brain is completely overwhelmed. This chemical reaction then disallows the hippocampus to communicate with the rest of the brain to effectively process the memory. Revisiting the painful emotional experience and then immediately following your therapist’s finger allows communication between both the logical and emotional sides of your brain, helping to forge the bond and make the emotional distress much less present and painful.
Does it Require Special Training?
Yes. In order to be certified in EMDR as a therapist, at least 50 hours of training and education are required. I find EMDR to be very rewarding for my clients who have experienced trauma. It is something that you will want to find a very qualified therapist if you are ready to embark on this type of treatment. Great places to find quality therapists are by asking your close friends and colleagues, searching online for therapists who write frequently and expertly in their field, and checking out associations, such as the National Association of Social Workers or Sondermind. I am members of both and also trained in EMDR.
Helping others deal with trauma is something that is very important for me in my practice.
If you think you would like to learn more or schedule a session with me, please email me here and I would be happy to visit with you or chat by phone. You don’t have to always live with the sharp pain of trauma. EMDR can help and it’s definitely worth a try if you haven’t yet experienced it.