Overcoming Trauma with EMDR Therapy
Sometimes, we feel “stuck” when trying to make healthy changes in our lives. We want to change for the better, yet there’s something holding us back. It’s possible that past traumatic experiences are still affecting us. We might still remember the day we were bullied in the cafeteria, the moment our parents announced they were getting a divorce, or the morning we were sideswiped by a car, as clear as day. In fact, just thinking about it might bring us back to the moment as if we’re reliving it, not only remembering it. The events could have occurred weeks, months, or even years ago, yet they continue to play a role in our daily thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—whether we realize it or not.
What can you do to deal with the memories more calmly? One treatment is EMDR, a form of therapy proven effective in helping people cope with trauma. Once you are able to process traumatic experiences, you can free yourself from what’s holding you back and make a change for the better.
Let’s learn more about EMDR and how it works…
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This type of therapy helps people process trauma using rapid eye movements and bilateral stimulation (using auditory stimuli that occurs in a rhythmic pattern, like playing sounds or tapping). It offers a safe, controlled environment for people to be guided through distressing past experiences in order to process them and begin to move on.
How does the therapy work?
The brain has a natural process for coping with trauma. When we deal with distress in the moment, we experience a rush of adrenaline, as part of our natural “fight, flight or freeze” response. It gives us the energy needed to deal with a crisis. Then, different portions of the brain communicate to resolve the experience in our minds. However sometimes, the brain needs help handling distressing events. If the distress has not been fully processed, we will feel that same feeling of overwhelm or like we’re back in the moment again as we recall it to memory.
EMDR helps us relive the traumatic experiences in order to properly manage them. The therapist will ask you to think back to a distressing moment. Slowly and gradually, you will recall any upsetting images, thoughts, or emotions surrounding the memory. The therapist will guide you through rapid eye movements and patterned sounds, allowing the brain to process small chunks of the memory at a time. The sensory stimulation (through eye movements and sounds) keeps you focused and grounded in the present while accessing past experiences. The therapist will work with you at the pace you’re comfortable with in order to help you overcome trauma. The goal is to remember the experience without reliving the painful thoughts and emotions surrounding it.
What are the benefits of EMDR?
EMDR therapy is beneficial for people of all ages, from children to adults. It can help people suffering from anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, depression, eating disorders, PTSD, chronic illnesses, grief, and loss overcome traumatic events. It decreases worry surrounding certain events or topics and allows people to become “unstuck” from particular memories. EMDR has a distancing effect as well, which allows a problem to feel smaller. It reduces the pain and negative emotions surrounding distressing memories.
Our brains aren’t perfect. They are not always successful in processing traumatic experiences on their own. In those cases, our minds may convince us that we’re reliving distressing memories, not just remembering them. The negative thoughts, images, and emotions related to those traumatic events can take their toll. Research shows that EMDR is an effective treatment for processing trauma. With the guidance and support of a therapist, many people have been able to properly process trauma and overcome it. Don’t let the past keep you from improving yourself. Seek help and make a change for the better today.