Dallas Therapy Collective
Sometimes talk-therapy just Doesn’t cut it
EMDR is a highly effective, evidence-based type of therapy for processing traumas or distressing life events. EMDR targets the distress and symptoms associated with it, utilizing your brain’s natural healing tendencies.
People often turn to EMDR therapy for one of two reasons:
- They’ve heard it works and want to start with EMDR when they start therapy
- They’ve been getting “stuck” in talk therapy – and want to turn to EMDR to get them “unstuck”
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a holistic therapy – activating thoughts, emotions, and body sensations that are associated with a particular memory that has “stuck around” and continues to negatively impact your life.
Sometimes when painful or traumatic events are occurring, the brain does not process the information in the same way it does during non-traumatic events. The painful experiences and associated emotions, feelings, and body sensations can become “stuck,” resulting in adverse emotions and symptoms. This often happens because of the body’s “flight, flight, or freeze” response. Essentially, the brain goes into survival mode and becomes so overloaded that the event isn’t fully processed. This results in lingering feelings of powerlessness, shame, fear, or other emotions that tend to wear on you.
How does EMDR Therapy work?
Through bilateral stimulation and a balance of being in both the present moment while processing a past event, the brain is able to fully process the memory, getting you unstuck. One theory of why bilateral stimulation assists in processing memories is that it simulates rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is the body’s natural way of consolidating or processing information. In this state, the parts of the brain that need to communicate with one another to process an event (the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex) are able to communicate in the present while not undergoing the stress they were in when the event was happening in the past. As this processing occurs, the “charge” of the event lessens or dims over time. EMDR does not erase a memory; it is simply a way to re-process the memory so that its effects do not negatively impact you in the same way.
Although “eye movement” is in the name, your therapist may use a variety of bilateral stimulation strategies to alternately stimulate the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Bilateral stimulation may include moving their finger to stimulate eye movements, having you hold alternating pulsers in your hands, tapping lightly on your knees with their fingers, or using light or audio strategies that flash/sound from one side to the other.
What can I expect?
Your therapist will gather a basic history of your presenting concerns and what you would like to address in therapy. Your therapist will also engage you in resource development as a part of the EMDR process. “Resource development” involves tapping into your creativity to create a support system for yourself. This may include imagining a “safe place,” and identifying figures such as wisdom, nurturing, or protective figures to call upon, should you need them when processing the targeted memory. The length of time for the intake, resource development, and memory re-processing will vary depending on your presenting concerns. You can talk to your therapist about what you might expect, given your unique situation.
What can EMDR be used for?
EMDR is known as a treatment for traumatic events. However, EMDR therapy can be used for a number of issues that are causing you to feel symptoms of depression, anxiety, shame, and feelings of powerlessness. EMDR can be use to addressed the following (this is not an exhaustive list):
- Single incident traumas (such as car accidents, destructive weather events, being robbed, etc.)
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship difficulties
- Domestic violence
- Performance enhancement (sports, music, etc.)
- Feeling stuck in life
- Childhood trauma
- Emotional neglect or misattunement
- Sexual assaults or physical assaults
- Social anxiety
- Feelings of rejection
- Trust issues/affairs
What if I already have a therapist?
If you’re already working with an individual counselor and the two of you are feeling stuck in the work together, some clients benefit by seeing an EMDR therapist while seeing their regular therapist. Others may wish to take a break from talk therapy to try EMDR. Your therapist and your EMDR therapist can communicate with one another if you elect to sign a Release of Information for them to do so.
Where can I get more information about EMDR?
If you’re wondering if you’re a good candidate for EMDR, call us at 469-709-9250 for a brief consultation.
If you would like more information and to read the latest research on EMDR, check out the EMDR International Association or The EMDR Institute.