Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
“Being able to feel safe with other people is probably the single most important aspect of mental health; safe connections are fundamental to meaningful and satisfying lives.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma.
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a technical phrase used to describe an extremely effective means of treating trauma. While EMDR is a comparatively new treatment, clinical trials have shown this technique can speed recovery from trauma.
The most basic description of EMDR involves moving your eyes or "tapping" on either side of your body in a specific and guided way while working with your clinician to process traumatic memories.
Specially trained clinicians use EMDR in conjunction with other types of therapy as a way to safely approach and process trauma. The technique allows you to recall the traumatic event in a way that is less intense, without feeling controlled or destabilized by it.
Basic Explanation of EMDR:
When a trauma occurs, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, and feelings that went in at the time of the event. The eye movements or other bilateral stimulation (BLS) we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow the mind and body to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep, the BLS helps to process the unconscious material. It is important to remember that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and that you are the one in control.
Basic Explanation of EMDR Procedure:
We will begin by bringing up a memory you want to work on with the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations associated with it to stimulate the memory network. Then we will begin the BLS, and you are to let whatever happens happen without censoring it. It is like a mind-body free association. When you feel like you are at the end of a piece of processing and you are ready to check in, we will pause the BLS, The therapist will ask you what is happening, and you will simply report back your experience. Then a new set of BLS will begin. At times the therapist will ask you to return to the memory you started with and report your experience and to rate the level of disturbance on a scale from 0 to 10. It is most important that you not judge or censor your experience. BLS can be done for a while and then discussed with the therapist. BLS will continue and check-ins until the memory you started with is no longer disturbing to you.