What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) is a treatment that was developed to treat people who had upsetting memories from their past. When a person has had a severely upsetting thing happen to them, the brain does not store this memory the way it stores regular memories. Very upsetting memories, or “traumas”, are stored as a package in the brain, with the physical feelings (i.e. racing heart, sweating, shaking) stored with the emotional reaction (fear, panic) and the thoughts (“I am going to die, this is awful, I can’t bear this”, etc.). This memory “chunk” then can be brought back up any time that one piece of it is remembered. This causes problems because once one piece of it is brought back, the whole “chunk” comes back and you have very strong physical and emotional reactions as well as strong and often upsetting thoughts.
What is the goal of EMDR?
The goal of EMDR is to help move traumatic memories, stored as “chunks”, into normal memories that are not especially upsetting or powerful. When this occurs, the patient can use relaxation techniques and coping techniques to deal with the trauma without being overwhelmed by it every time they think about it.
How does EMDR work?
It is believed that the negative thoughts, feelings, and associations related to the trauma result from a memory that has not been completely processed. The memory has not been broken down yet and is stored as a big “chunk” that needs to be pulled apart and filed in separate areas of the brain. It is thought that by using a “dual attention” technique such as moving ones eyes while following the therapists finger, or listening to taping noises while recalling traumatic memories, that the memories can become more fully processed. While this may sound too easy or strange, there is actually a great deal of research as to why this “moving back and forth” type of attention somehow helps the brain to change the memory from a traumatic one to a more normal one. I have been integrating EMDR therapy in Austin with many of my clients. EMDR does not work alone, however. It is just one tool to be used in a therapy process along with other tools such as relaxation training, learning adaptive coping skills, communication skills, lifestyle changes, assertiveness skills, anger management, etc.
For more information on EMDR please refer to the website:
EMDR Institute, INC.