So You’ve Heard About EMDR…
Have you tried other forms of talk therapy and you still feel stuck?
Do you find it difficult to talk about the details or events that you still find triggering or bothersome?
Maybe you are feeling stuck and at a loss for what is going to make you feel better, or you find it difficult to remain present, engaged with others, or taking care of daily tasks. You might be having trouble sleeping due to anxiety before sleep, or the fear that you will have another nightmare. Each day has felt like a chore to get through and you find yourself either zoning out or using any means necessary to not feel - substances, food, social media. You have decided that it is time to get some outside help. EMDR Therapy might be the right fit for you.
How Does EMDR Work?
At Grace Therapy & Wellness, we strongly believe in the research that says our brains are wired for and gravitate towards healing. In the same way that our brains process the information from the day during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, a healing process similar to REM sleep can be replicated to initiate healing. This process is called EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 80’s to treat PTSD and other mental health issues.
Why trauma gets stuck
For the most part, our brains will process new information without our conscious awareness. Our brains have a hard time knowing where to file abnormal (traumatic) experiences, whether it is ongoing relational trauma (e.g. childhood abuse), or a single incident (e.g. natural disaster, motor vehicle accident, etc). When our brains don’t know how to file these experiences, they become stuck in our limbic system, which is responsible for our fight/flight responses.
Our brain then keeps these experiences cut off from the cerebral cortex, which is the memory filing cabinet of the brain and is responsible for using language to tell the story of our memory. Instead, the limbic system holds these memories in their emotional form in a network of their own. This means that, though we may not recall the memory as it was, we continue to experience uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and other negative emotions.
Because it is “stuck” in the limbic system in its own network, it makes us susceptible to triggers when we experience anything that reminds our body of the original traumatic event. EMDR begins to connect this isolated memory network with other networks to draw on the brain's natural ability to process the traumatic memory.
Picturing an EMDR session
After you and your therapist have agreed on a treatment plan, the therapist will ask about a traumatic memory that is continuing to cause disturbance for you. Eye movements, or other bilateral stimulation, will be implemented for a few moments as you are asked to focus on the memory. The therapist will check in and see if anything has changed to your thoughts, emotions, or the image of the memory. The therapist will continue the eye movements, or bilateral stimulation, until the memory turns neutral and does not feel disturbing to you any longer. You may also notice that other memories linked to the targeted memory lose their disturbance as well. This reality can create dramatic improvements to multiple parts of life.
So, Who And What Does EMDR Treat?
Though EMDR was initially used for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress, it has also been found useful in treating other issues, such as:
EMDR can accelerate healing in your life by processing traumatic memories and experiences more rapidly without the need to talk through every detail.
How Long Does EMDR Treatment Last?
Some individuals see positive results after one session. EMDR can be a short-term treatment, adjunctive to your already established psychotherapy, or a longer term plan. EMDR is easily integrated into other forms of psychotherapy, such as, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Psychodynamic, and other approaches. EMDR sessions last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Before beginning EMDR, you will establish a “stop” signal with your therapist. You are in control of this process and will be fully awake and conscious of the process. The therapist will act as a guide, but the healing will be facilitated by you and your smart brain.
Is EMDR Just Another Form of Hypnosis?
No. EMDR and Hypnosis share similar aspects that help you connect with unconscious material in the form of thoughts, emotions, feelings, body sensations, and memories, but you will always remain fully awake and present for the processing. You will remain in control of your healing.
Can EMDR Make Me Worse?
EMDR has been proven to be a safe and effective form of treatment that has been around since the 1980’s. It has undergone many research studies that have proven its effectiveness with little to no side effects. Some individuals may experience some dizziness or notice more intense emotions or body sensations following a session. As you continue your trauma processing, these symptoms tend to dissipate. It’s also important to note that as you process these memories or experiences, you may begin to view them differently, or notice new aspects you did not see before. All of this is a normal part of the process, but still worth noting to eliminate any surprises.
Can I Do My Own EMDR?
There are aspects of EMDR therapy that are actually encouraged to utilize between sessions. This will help you cope with any anxiety or triggers that come up between sessions. Some of these include mindfulness and visualization exercises that help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression directly related to any distressing content. A lot of healing can happen between sessions, though there are parts that may be important to explore in the context of a safe therapeutic relationship. The safety and support of a Trauma Therapist may be what is needed to find strength within you to approach healing. At Grace Therapy & Wellness, we conclude each EMDR session with calming strategies to ensure that you are feeling safe and as settled as possible before leaving the session.
Common Concerns You and Others May Have About EMDR Therapy
Will I remember what happened during an EMDR session? Will I be out of control?
During an EMDR session, the goal is to have you connect enough with the past in order to notice what is disturbing and heal it, while remaining enough in the present to know where you are and that you are safe. An EMDR session does not place you under a hypnotic trance.You will always remain in control of your treatment and you are able and encouraged to stop the processing when you do not feel comfortable.
Is online EMDR Therapy just as effective as in person?
Yes. The research indicates that online is just as effective as in person, as well as this is what we see as therapists. Many believe that online EMDR might have other positive effects, considering that you will be at home or in another environment that is normal for you. This can help create a different sense of safety.
Will you keep our sessions private?
Yes! All of us are bound by confidentiality to our licensure board, as well as by HIPAA. We do not communicate with anyone outside of your treatment without a signed release of information from you. Confidentiality is only ever breached under extraordinary circumstances (e.g. imminent danger to self or others).
My symptoms are SO bad, how are you going to help me?
Every person has a unique experience and just as unique needs. We are trained in many different modalities of treatment, which means we can tailor our approach to match your unique needs. We have seen the success of treatment for even the most severe cases of anxiety, trauma, depression, and more.
You CAN Experience Joy and Fulfillment Again
Take the next step in your healing
Traumatic stress and anxiety can take control of your life and feel like you are out of control. You can find control and feel hope again. You do not have to keep feeling stuck in these same patterns, feelings, and memories. You deserve to feel free and whole again.
If you think our services may be right for you, take the next step and reach out to us today to schedule an initial appointment. We offer local in-person counseling in Austin, TX and online for the state of Texas.
You can find more information about EMDR at www.emdria.org and www.emdr.com. Or, reach out to one of our therapists here.