How to Heal Trauma Using EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy technique developed by Francine Shapiro, PHD that has been successfully used to treat people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, panic attacks, negative beliefs, hypervigilance and worry associated with past trauma. People who have experienced childhood sexual trauma and other forms of physical, emotional and/or military trauma can benefit from this time of treatment in a relatively short period of time. It is also important to note that EMDR therapy in Phoenix is also used for people who may have experienced a recent traumatic episode such as witnessing or experiencing a car accident, school shooting, domestic violence, etc.

Why We Experience Trauma on a Loop

When we experience a traumatic event such as early childhood sexual, physical and emotional trauma, military trauma, car accidents, violence or even domestic abuse, it can override the body’s natural ability to cope and process the event. This can result in these disturbing experiences remaining frozen/stuck in our brain. Unprocessed events/memories are then encoded in our brain with all the feelings, emotions and sensations; which are then stored in the limbic system of your brain in a "raw" and emotional form. This limbic system preserves traumatic memories in an isolated memory network that is linked with emotions and physical sensations, which are also disconnected from the brain’s cortex where we use language to store memories. When this happens, events in the present can remind us of the traumatic episode such as a smell, tone of voice, place, color or even TV show. These triggers may lead us to behave as if the incident is recurring. The limbic system’s distressing memories can be repeatedly triggered when you experience events like the problematic experiences you have been through. Often the memory itself is long forgotten, but the painful feelings such as anxiety, panic, anger or despair are constantly triggered in the present. Your ability to live in the present and learn from new experiences becomes repressed. Phoenix EMDR therapy at NewPoint of View Counseling can help.

Why EMDR Treatment?

EMDR therapy helps you to reprocess these traumatic events so that new learning can occur. Your EMDR therapist will use bilateral stimulations either through tapping, eye movements or headphones to aid in the processing, helping you to create connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way, similar to what happens during REM sleep.

What to expect during an EMDR Therapy Session?

Your therapist will ask you to identify disturbing events/incidents that continue to upset you or cause negative emotions in the present. Your therapist will help you to identify thoughts, feelings and sensations associated with the incident while performing a series of bilateral eye movements (left – right eye movement) while focusing on the traumatic memory. Your therapist may use other bilateral stimulations including alternating bilateral sound using headphones and alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of your hands. It is believed that EMDR induces a fundamental change in the circuitry of the brain, similar to what happens during REM sleep. This helps people process, integrate, and understand their trauma within the broader context of their current life. Clients often report memories feeling more distant, being less disturbing and no longer evoking the negative sensations such as anxiety, panic attacks, nervousness, bad dreams, isolation, depression and self-loathing prior to engaging in EMDR treatment. Sources: