Is EMDR Therapy Right For You?
“You are not lazy, unmotivated, or stuck. After years of living in survival mode, you are exhausted. There is a difference.” -Nakeia Homer.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, developed by American psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, was initially used to treat patients who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More and more, it has become a therapeutic protocol used in the treatment of mental and emotional trauma. It has been widely praised by agencies in the U.S., such as the American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
Those suffering from PTSD caused by major traumas such as sexual or physical assault, combat experiences, accidents, or the sudden death of a loved one can benefit from EMDR therapy. What if, however, you are experiencing not only PTSD-type symptoms but also what is known as C-PTSD, Complex Post Traumatic Disorder, resulting from prolonged traumatic situations such as different forms of abuse, neglect, and attachment trauma?
In some cases, these prolonged events can cause even more symptoms of PTSD than major traumas like combat or terrorist attacks. Can EMDR therapy be just as effective in treating those suffering as a result of prolonged trauma? The short answer, Yes!
Psychologists and Psychotherapists alike are now recognizing that people suffering from anxiety, depression, or mental and emotional disorders caused by the effects of these prolonged circumstances are also benefiting from EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy includes sessions that work to alleviate PTSD symptoms like flashbacks and nightmares, angry outbursts, difficulties sleeping and concentrating, and feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation.
Trauma and the Brain
Once trauma has been experienced, there is a disruption in how the brain processes information, whether it’s a one-time traumatic event or prolonged trauma over some time. In a “normal” brain that has not experienced a shocking event, processing systems digest information about what has happened and make appropriate connections. Those reactions to circumstances that are no longer useful, any emotions or physical sensations, are released.
However, when an individual experiences a traumatic event, this processing system is disrupted, and the negative memories and emotions and physical sensations, and beliefs are stored in the brain.
These stored traumatic interpretations mingle with current events to color them negatively. In short, the past becomes the present. Francine Shapiro, the founder of EMDR therapy, explains, “The past affects our present even without our being aware of it.”
The Benefit of EMDR Therapy
EMDR is an effective protocol to treat these unprocessed memories that are poisoning the present. EMDR can remove the anxiety, fear, and sadness that cause individuals to avoid or overreact to situations.
EMDR techniques allow individuals to identify early memories that are the root of their problems and change their emotions, thoughts, and even physical sensations surrounding them. These same techniques can also help people achieve desired goals by understanding why they do what they do and how they can better manage life and behaviors.
EMDR Treatment Areas
EMDR is used to treat a variety of issues, including:
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Pain disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and Physical abuse
- Body dysmorphic disorders
- Personality Disorders
- Single Incident Traumas (i.e., car accident, sexual assault)
For more than 25 years now, EMDR therapy has continued to treat PTSD and other mental health conditions. If you experience any of the mental health disorders listed above or any other form of disruption for your mental health, EMDR may be an effective treatment option. Talk with your licensed therapist about EMDR and if you currently aren’t working with a licensed therapist or a therapist trained in EMDR therapy, reach out to me. I would be happy to discuss how I and this particular therapy approach might help you on your journey to healing.
Norine Vander Hooven is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Westlake Village, California, and has been in practice for 30 years. Norine views the decision to enter therapy as displaying strength and courage. Norine specializes in suicide prevention, depression, anxiety, mindfulness, and life transitions. Norine is also EMDR trained and uses this to work with people with PTSD and severe anxiety. Norine works with youth, adolescents, adults, and families.