Trauma and EMDR
When we experience trauma, our brains remember everything about the experience: images, smells, sounds, body sensations, and feelings such as fear or panic. Normally we're able to process these memories and leave them in the past, but sometimes these memories aren't processed, leading us to continue to experience feelings (particularly the feelings of fear) in the present. When that happens we may find ourselves reacting to sensations (images, sounds, etc.) that remind us of the trauma. Interestingly, the mis-processed events don’t need to be life threatening (long-term emotional abuse is an example) in order for them to feel traumatic and for us to keep experiencing emotions and feelings after the event.
The Flight, Fight, or Freeze (FF or F) mechanism in our brains is designed to save us from danger without having to think. It helps us automatically react when we have potentially life-threatening experiences, such as a car swerving toward us on the freeway. In that case we may swerve and brake before we realize what we're doing. However, when we don't process the memories of trauma, the FF or F mechanism in our brains can remain partially or fully activated. Jumping at the slightest noise, feeling afraid of experiences that don't seem to be scary, and finding ourselves to be reactive, are just some of the problems when FF or F remains activated.
When trauma is not processed, we may not only find ourselves reacting strangely to things that remind us of the trauma, but we may self-medicate or engage in other behaviors in attempt to reduce the effects of our activated FF or F systems.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and it's a type of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. It was developed in the late 1980’s by Dr. Francine Shapiro after she discovered that moving her eyes rapidly back and forth helped her diffuse the emotions tied to traumatic memories. Since then, EMDR has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma.
How is EMDR different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about a distressing issue, or doing homework between sessions. Rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, EMDR techniques allow the brain to resume its natural healing process and resolve unprocessed traumatic memories. Part of the therapy includes alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps. For most clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy can help children and adults of all ages. Therapists use EMDR with a wide range of challenges such as:
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Grief and loss
PTSD and other trauma and stress related issues
Violence and abuse
My EMDR training
I’ve been fortunate to train in EMDR with Dr. Stephen Danziger of the Center for Creative Mindfulness. I recently completed my supervision and am now a trained EMDR therapist and offer this type of therapy as one of my services.
Please contact me to schedule a free consultation.