Experiencing traumatic events can deeply impact mental health and overall wellbeing. Trauma creates upsetting memories linked to strong negative emotions, which survivors continually re-live through flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts. Thankfully, a therapeutic approach called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) offers immense healing benefits for processing trauma. This article explores how EMDR works and how it can help you recover from traumatic experiences.
EMDR Therapy Can Help Process Traumatic Memories
At the core of EMDR is processing traumatic memories to make them less disturbing and disabling. Typically, survivors get “stuck” on the worst moments of a trauma which continue replaying over and over. EMDR facilitates processing these memories so the negative emotions are resolved. They become less painful and no longer plaguing.
EMDR achieves memory reprocessing through bilateral stimulation of the brain, such as eye movements, while recalling the traumatic incident. This stimulation engages the information processing mechanisms of the brain to “digest” the traumatic experience in a healthy way. The memory shifts from being “stuck” to being adaptive.
EMDR Works by “Reprocessing” Trauma
EMDR does not erase memories – rather, it changes how they are stored in the brain so they stop being debilitating. The goal is to reprocess and integrate memories into general experience. The bilateral stimulation of EMDR activates the brain’s mechanisms for properly sorting and filing memories for retrieval.
The traumatic experience transitions from being frozen in an emotional “time warp” to being a neutralized memory. Recalling it no longer triggers the extreme emotions and bodily stress response. EMDR reprocesses the “stuck” aspects of the traumatic memory.
Clinically Proven to Reduce PTSD Symptoms
Extensive research over the past 30 years demonstrates EMDR’s effectiveness at reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies show EMDR achieves substantial relief from trauma in just 6-12 treatment sessions. The World Health Organization recommends EMDR as an effective therapy for PTSD.
EMDR significantly reduces flashbacks, anxiety, body tension, anger, and the negative beliefs often associated with trauma. Processing trauma with EMDR helps restore emotional health and the ability to function optimally.
Helps Relieve Anxiety and Distressing Thoughts
Trauma survivors are often plagued by anxiety, panic attacks, and negative thoughts long after the traumatic event occurred. EMDR provides long-term relief by targeting the unprocessed memories feeding these symptoms. EMDR techniques can alleviate anxiety, fears, and excessive worry related to the original trauma.
EMDR also reduces rumination and obsessive negative thoughts surrounding trauma. Reprocessing trains the brain to let go of distressing thought patterns. EMDR empowers survivors to regain control over trauma-induced anxieties and worries.
Promotes Emotional and Psychological Healing
Beyond symptom relief, EMDR enables deep emotional and psychological healing from trauma. The heart of EMDR is allowing survivors to safely access, express, and process emotions locked around memories. This clears the emotional baggage and pain connected to the trauma.
EMDR techniques used by an experienced EMDR therapist guide survivors through targeted memory reprocessing that requires emotional engagement. The result is liberation from the emotional imprisonment of trauma. EMDR allows emotions to become flexible and adaptive again.
EMDR Sessions Involve Bilateral Stimulation
A hallmark of EMDR treatment is the use of bilateral stimulation, which shifts brain activity back and forth across the two hemispheres. This stimulates the brain’s natural information processing mechanisms. The EMDR therapist applies lateral eye movements, tapping, or audio tones.
During EMDR, the client focuses on various aspects of the traumatic memory while receiving bilateral stimulation. This allows insights and new associations to emerge. The bilateral stimulation is a key tool for unlocking trauma from frozen processing networks in the brain.
EMDR Therapy is Customized to You
Every EMDR treatment plan is tailored to the individual and their unique experiences. An initial assessment gathers history and identifies target memories to be processed. EMDR also assesses connections between past events and current symptoms. Goals are delineated for therapy.
Within sessions, the EMDR therapist guides you to identify specific disturbing moments to target. Customized bilateral stimulation patterns and speeds are determined. EMDR is a very personalized approach.
Works for Both Recent and Past Traumas
EMDR can treat both recent traumas and those buried deeper in the past. Recent events have immediate impact, while past childhood trauma can manifest years later. Targeting the root traumatic memories, whenever they occurred, is key to change maladaptive responses.
For recent trauma, EMDR can start immediately to mitigate long-term symptoms. Past traumas may require preparation over several sessions before memory reprocessing. An emdr therapist will determine the timeline for depth work.
Effective for Various Types of Trauma
EMDR benefits those with trauma from:
- Violence, assaults, abuse
- Military combat
- Disasters, accidents, fire, health crises
- Attachments ruptures and neglect
- Loss of loved ones
- Discrimination events
- Any distressing experience
EMDR provides relief whether the trauma was a one-time event or chronic pattern. The technique focuses on the most distressing aspects of experience to achieve thorough processing.
Improves Ability to Function After Trauma
EMDR enables people to get unstuck and progress in life after trauma. Therapy results in both clinical improvement and better capability to handle challenges, triggers, and stressors. Day-to-day functioning improves.
EMDR reprocesses memories so survivors can adapt, learn, and move forward resiliently. A contribution of EMDR is empowering confidence to tackle difficulties instead of being derailed by trauma. Healing provides tools to thrive.
Enhances Confidence and Performance
The self-efficacy gained through EMDR often translates into performance benefits in work, academics, sports and the arts. Processing trauma restores the ability to excel since emotional wounds are no longer holding one back.
EMDR’s trauma resolution can enhance concentration, competition focus, boldness, and drive to achieve. Athletes, performers, executives, and students may experience performance benefits following EMDR treatment.
Can Overcome Phobias and Fears
Phobias and irrational fears are often rooted in some past trauma. EMDR can rapidly alleviate phobias and fears by targeting the source event encoding the fear response. Research confirms EMDR’s effectiveness for phobia relief.
For example, EMDR could target a dog bite leading to canine phobia. Or excessive fear of heights after a fall. Once trauma is reprocessed, the phobia response extinguishes. EMDR achieves freedom from excessive fear.
Find an EMDR Therapist Trained in This Approach
It is essential to work with a licensed mental health clinician formally trained through the EMDR International Association. Do the research to ensure your therapist is EMDR-certified. Be wary of those claiming expertise without proper EMDR credentials.
You want an EMDR therapist with experience guiding patients through traumatic memory work. EMDR requires skill and trauma expertise to be done safely and effectively. But with a qualified EMDR therapist, the benefits of this therapy can be life-changing.
EMDR facilitates deep psychological healing by processing traumatic memories in ways that minimize their negative impacts. This innovative therapy relieves PTSD, anxiety, fears, and blocked emotions caused by trauma. Through bilateral stimulation and customized protocols, EMDR reprocesses traumatic events so survivors are freed from the past. If unresolved trauma is disrupting your life, seek out an EMDR therapist to explore the benefits of EMDR.
Reclaim Your Life with Choice Point Psychological: Embrace EMDR Therapy
Life often brings us to crossroads or “choice points”, where we must decide between enduring the pain of the past or moving courageously towards healing. Trauma and stress can feel isolating, but you don’t have to walk this journey alone. At Choice Point Psychological, we acknowledge the profound impact of trauma and are committed to providing highly effective, evidence-based solutions like EMDR therapy.
In our hands, EMDR is more than just a therapeutic approach, it’s a catalyst to help you overcome traumatic experiences and foster resilience, enabling you to turn towards a life filled with meaning and purpose. Our trained EMDR therapists in Calgary have already guided many individuals towards a transformed life, and they are ready to walk with you too.