What is it used for?
EMDR is used to treat troubling symptoms such as anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, and post-traumatic reactions. It can also be used to enhance emotional resources such as confidence and self-esteem.
What happens in a session?
EMDR uses bi-lateral stimulation (light bar, sound, tapping, pulsars) to connect the verbal/logical part of your mind to the emotional part of your mind. Often painful memories and overwhelming feelings are held in the emotional part of your brain making it difficult for logic or reason to impact them. While housed in the emotional part of your brain they can be easily triggered by normal daily events. EMDR is useful in reducing the emotional intensity which is often associated with difficult life experiences. By using bi-lateral stimulation and guided reminders of the event, with a positive cognition, you should experience a reduction in your level of distress.
Why bring up a painful memory?
When painful memories are avoided, they hold power over your emotions, behaviors and ability to move forward in life. EMDR allows you to face and work through the painful memory in a safe and nurturing setting. Once the memory has been effectively neutralized it will no longer have the power to control your emotions or behaviors.
Will I be in control?
Yes you will always be in control of whether or not we use EMDR as part of your treatment. If we decide together that using EMDR is a good option you will continue to be in control over when or if EMDR sessions occurs. Sometimes unexpected thoughts, memories and feelings come up during the EMDR process. Neither you nor I can fully anticipate this. It may be helpful for you to allow these to do their work during the EMDR session. But it will always be your choice. During the processing, I will remain attuned to you, watching for any signals of distress or discomfort. You will likely see images associated with your memories during the processing phase of EMDR. However, I will need very little information about these images to guide the processing. Often those who don’t want to verbally re-live difficult life experiences report that they appreciate not having to do so for EMDR to be effective.
Are there any precautions?
Yes. There are specific procedures to be followed depending on your presenting problem, emotional stability, medical condition, and other factors. My training in EMDR and trauma informed therapy has equipped me to handle a large variety of situations, which may come up during an EMDR processing session. My first and most important goal is for you to feel in control, safe and secure through-out each session. I will take a formal history prior to EMDR determining if any special considerations need to be in place. In some cases, I will determine that EMDR is not the best option for you, and I will recommend other interventions to address your needs.
What happens afterwards?
After an EMDR processing session, you may experience new insights, vivid dreams, strong emotions, images, or have new memories come to the surface. While this may be confusing at times, it is your brains way of continuing to heal itself. I will encourage you to write down these experiences in a journal. I will check in with you during future sessions, and we will discuss what you have recorded in your journal. This may lead to a change in the direction of your therapy in which case we will work together to identify and implement any appropriate changes.
Children often struggle to talk about difficult or emotionally charged subjects. This is particularly true when a child has experienced difficult life events or when they struggle with anxiety, depression and/or poor emotional and behavioral control. Before recommending or implementing EMDR with your child I will help them develop self-calming and coping skills to manage their emotions. I will help them develop a vocabulary to label their emotions and the ability to recognize how their body feels when they are experience specific emotional reaction. This process will be shared with you so that you so that you can work with them between sessions.
EMDR with children looks very different than EMDR with adults/adolescents. I may guide your child in drumming, marching, hand clapping games, or other rhythmic activities. This serves the role of bi-lateral stimulation which is a significant part of EMDR. Bi-lateral stimulation will engage your child’s innate ability to problem solve, process difficult past experiences and/or strong emotions. We will often recite certain carefully selected brief statements during specific parts of the bi-lateral stimulation. EMDR helps both sides of the brain to talk to each other. As the emotional side of the brain is calmed, the logical side of the brain is freed. This leads to a reduction in the power behind negative life experiences, belief systems and emotional reactions. EMDR will often increase your child’s behavioral control as well as their ability to calm themselves when they are emotionally activated.
When EMDR is chosen as an appropriate intervention for your child such will take place within a play therapy session. Click here to learn more about Play Therapy.
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
Childhood abuse, neglect, abandonment