Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy
What is EMDR?
Our brains have a natural system for processing information and experiences so that we can keep what we need for wisdom, learning, and growth and let the rest go. But sometimes disturbing experiences overwhelm that processing system, or we don’t have the information we need for our brains to make sense of what happened in a healthy way. Then, our brains and bodies hold on to all the pieces of the old experience, which can get triggered by reminders in our present life. The eye movements and other right-left stimulation in EMDR activate your brain’s information processing system in the security of my office so you can successfully process the experience and let go of what’s not useful to you.
The Great thing about EMDR is that you don't have to talk about your trauma, you will not be asked to retell your story, and you will process through eye movements, taping, auditory processing, and other somatic ways. Of course, you are welcome to share what you would like, but that is completely your choice.
The components of EMDR
Exploration of resources: Before jumping into the processing phases of EMDR, It's important to understand the role that internal & external resources have played throughout your history...to see how you are relating to them now...and to build stronger connections with the resources you need most to meet your goals in therapy and in life.
Internal resources are the invisible things we carry with us inside our minds, bodies, and hearts. They include positive memories of times we felt loved, strong, safe, happy, or capable. They can also include the healthy coping, connection, faith, and courage that got us through hard times -- along with the wisdom and resilience we gained from those difficult experiences. Some of us did not have the circumstances we needed as children to build a lot of strong internal resources, so therapy will include identifying what still needs to be developed and noticing what’s there that needs to be remembered and strengthened.
External Resources are the people, practices, and things we can rely on to help us feel better and function better. These can include access to finances, a safe and stable home, friends, family, and community support, healthy activities, a career, and education/information. Sometimes we don’t have all the external resources we need, and sometimes we have trouble using the available resources. It’s not always easy to ask for help or to trust that we’ll get the help we need. Still, we focus on building external resources to do our inner work more safely and effectively.
Collaborative treatment plan: Through EMDR, your treatment plan will be created along sing your therapist as you both identify the target memories and or experiences, symptoms, and situations that are causing you the most distress. You will also set goals and then choose which goal to start with. The treatment plan will include the following:
Presenting Issue: These are the things that are bothering you in your life, for example: Anxiety while driving
Presenting triggers: These are the things that cause your anxiety to spike, for example, driving on a highway or driving alone.
Future goals: These are the ways you hope to feel and be in the future due to therapy. For example: Feel okay while driving alone or at night.
Assessing the issue: During this phase of EMDR, your therapist will ask you a few questions to help get the memory activated and ready for reprocessing. These questions are to identify how these memories have caused you to develop negative thoughts and feelings about yourself.
Desensitization: Then, in the next phase of EMDR, you'll begin the eye movements (tones or tactile stimulation). Your job is just to notice the thoughts, emotions, images, and body sensations from this and other related memories as they go by. From time to time, your therapist will stop to ask what you’re noticing. Your brain is the driver and already knows what to do. You’re along for the ride but can tell your therapist if you have questions, need support, or want to stop anytime. Ideally, you’ll feel like you’ve got one foot in the room with me and one foot in the memory network you’re working on.
Installation: In this phase of EMDR, you will use eye movements (tones or tactile stimulation) to help strengthen the positive and more adaptive thoughts, feelings, and sensations you developed during the desensitization phase.
Future Template: Once we have fully processed a memory or experience and you have reached a more adaptive response to it, we will the final step in EMDR. Here we will use light eye movements (tones or tactile stimulation) to help you plan for the future and get your brain ready to feel more confident and secure.