EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates
elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with bilateral eye movements or
other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation.
One of the key elements of EMDR is “dual stimulation.” During treatment, you
are asked to think or talk about memories, triggers, and painful emotions
while simultaneously focusing on your therapist’s moving finger or another
form of bilateral stimuli.
At the time of a traumatic event, strong emotions interfere with our ability to
completely process the experience and one moment becomes “frozen in
time.” Recalling the traumatic event may feel as though the person is reliving
the event all over again because the images, smells, sounds, and feelings are
still there and can be triggered in the present. When activated, these
memories cause a negative impact on our daily functioning and interfere
with the way we see ourselves and our world, and how we relate to others.
EMDR therapy appears to directly affect the brain, “unfreezing” the traumatic
memories, allowing you to resolve them. Over time the disturbing memory
and associated beliefs, feelings, sensations become “digested” or worked
through until you are able to think about the event without reliving it. The
memory is still there, but it is less upsetting. The exact mechanism for the
effectiveness of EMDR is yet unknown. It appears that using rapid eye
movements relieves the anxiety associated with the trauma so that the
original event can be examined from a more detached perspective, somewhat
like watching a movie of what happened. This enables you to access positive
ways of reframing the original trauma (reprocessing), and to release the
body’s stored negative emotional charges around it (desensitization). Some
experts have noted that the eye movements involved in EMDR might be
similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye
movement) sleep. It may be thought of as a physiologically-based therapy
that allows a person to see material in a new and less distressing way. Others
believe it reactivates parts of the brain that were “shut down” as a coping
mechanism. In this way cognitive reorganizing takes place, allowing the
negative, painful emotions to give way to more resolved, empowered feelings.
This therapist thinks it’s totally awesome!