Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Advances in neurobiological technologies have expanded our understanding of what the “unconscious” is made of: past memories. Through our understanding of how experiences lay the physical groundwork for our emotional and physical reactions, we can determine how our stuck points and knee-jerk mental responses came about and what to do about them.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is a neuropsychological treatment for trauma that has been recommended by the World Health Organization for children, adolescents, and adults. EMDR therapy aims to reduce subjective distress and strengthen adaptive beliefs related to the traumatic event.
EMDR therapy is based on the Adaptive Information Processing Model that posits that memory networks are the basis of pathology and health: we react to our memory networks, not the present stimuli. In order words, some of our reactions are not based on the present reality but are primarily caused by memories from the past. Obviously, sometimes anger, sorrow, fear are appropriate, but other times, they’re not. Sometimes we’re tricked by our reactions into thinking they’re valid, just because we are experiencing them. Just because we are afraid, doesn’t mean there is a tiger in the room.
The past affects the present even without our being aware of it. Experiences that happened long ago and seem minor to us from an adult perspective can be the cause of long lasting maladaptive patterns of behaviors. From the vantage of the child, those experiences felt traumatic at the time, and the memories were locked into the brain. When an experience is processed successfully, it is adaptively stored and integrated with other similar experiences about ourselves and others. However, disruptions in information processing due to high distress from the adverse life experiences result in memories that are inadequately processed with all of the memory’s components frozen in the memory network. An example is when a 30 year old female suddenly goes into a panic attack when she hears the sound of a leather belt snapping because (unconsciously) the memory and sensations associated with it (sound of belt snapping) of being beaten as a child by her father were not processed; so as an adult fully capable of defending herself and is no longer in danger, this client still feels like a helpless, powerless child unable to escape the pain. The negative beliefs, emotions, behaviors, and sensations that cause chronic problems generally can be traced back to these unprocessed memories.
With EMDR therapy, your therapist will guide you through identifying the unprocessed memories and collaboratively create a healing plan with you based on those memory networks, targeting each individual maladaptively stored memory. During the reprocessing sessions, EMDR therapist will use bilateral stimulation to activate your brain’s inner ability to heal itself and to facilitating the connections between the right and left hemispheres of your brain. Bilateral stimulation (eye movement, pulsers, or bilater music) assists the neurophysiological system to release emotional experiences that get stuck in the nervous system and returns the body to equilibrium. Thus, it accelerates your brains capacity to process and heal the memory being targeted, which can leave you feeling a greater sense of ease and self-agency. Once reprocessing of past memories is completed, your therapist will target the present triggers that cause unwanted behaviors. The last part of the healing plan is to target future templates to help you identify the adaptive ways you would like to react to similar situations in the future.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to alleviate suffering by reprocessing past memories and to assist you strengthening ability to respond appropriately to current and future life demands, thus bringing contentment, satisfaction, and well-being into your life.
If you are interested in scheduling an EMDR therapy appointment with us please feel free to give us a call at 562-566-4257 for a free telephone consultation.