EMDR Therapy and How it Can Benefit You

by | Feb 13, 2023

Ever heard of that therapy that uses eye movements or light bars? Well, this is the therapy people are talking about, but it is so much more than just light bars and eye movements.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it is an evidence-based psychotherapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is extensive literature of how EMDR can treat more than just PTSD though! From other psychiatric conditions, mental health problems, as well as even somatic issues, EMDR can be a remedy for most anything—but here’s the deal—it is entirely based on trauma and old triggering memories! So, if you find that you have had experience after experience that has left you feeling wounded in some manner, EMDR therapy may just be the therapy you’ve longed for! Now—you can spend years in psychodynamic therapy trying to dig down to the root causes or underlying problems that are stemming from the trauma or wounds you’ve incurred, but you don’t need to with EMDR therapy. What once took years can take less than several months, depending on severity of the perceived trauma for resolution outcomes.

The Phases of EMDR

In phases one through three out of the main eight phases, there will be history taking, assessment, preparation, and determination for appropriateness for EMDR candidacy. A thorough history is taken to see if you would be a good fit for EMDR Therapy. This is needed to get down to the core belief of what you really feel about yourself based upon the experiences you have gone through.

In phase four out of the eight phases (Activation, or De-sensitization), EMDR therapy takes the worst part of an image of the experience, while holding that image in place, and thinking about your self-conceptualized negative cognition (or belief) about yourself. It also links the image and negative belief to where you feel the sensations in your body. Now, negative beliefs can vary from person to person, but so many are very generalized! They can be anything from:

  • I’m unworthy.
  • I’m unlovable.
  • I’m undeserving of love.
  • I’m not good enough.
  • I didn’t do enough.
  • I’m incapable.
  • I’m inadequate.
  • I’m a bad person.

And the list goes on and on! Humans have such a skewed perception of themselves because society seems to have a ton of blame, guilt and shame feelings passed down from generation to generation. Essentially, what your great, great, great, grandparents experienced in their DNA is literally passed down to you! This is how generational trauma is passed down!

Once the activation phase is concluded, the EMDR therapist would move onto the installation phase (phase 5) of a positive cognition. Whereas instead of believing the negative about yourself, you can believe things such as:

  • I am worthy.
  • I am lovable.
  • I am deserving of love.
  • I am good enough.
  • I did enough.
  • I am capable.
  • I am adequate.
  • I am a good person.

Now, the good news is that EMDR does use Eye movements and some therapists will use light bars, but EMDR can even be done REMOTELY! What matters is that your eyes are moving and can go across the full length of a screen. If eye movements are not possible there are ways to do it through tactile and auditory means as well. Whether that be through tapping of the legs, or butterfly hug taps, or tapping of the inner cartilage of your ear. There are quite a few methods to doing EMDR therapy to where it’s the therapist’s ultimate decision to switch up or change modalities and frequencies from going side to side in what they call “Bi-lateral stimulation” (which is really the eye movements horizontally) and move to either diagonal eye movements, or another method via tactile or auditory. This is all left to the discretion of the therapist who helps assist the client in the processing via methods aforementioned based on the movement of client’s processing.

In phase six there is a body scan which is a test to see if there is any disturbance left in the body. The client will be asked to scan their body while thinking about the original incident and the positive cognition (belief) about themselves and if there are any negative sensations felt, reprocessing needs to occur again. If positive sensations are felt, bi-lateral stimulation needs to be applied to “punch” in the feelings of positivity.

There is also a process of future resourcing where you can look to building characteristics in yourself that you’ve so longed to have for yourself but pretty much only tried to “Fake it till you make it” and even then, it never seems to work, right? Well with EMDR therapy it can be a reality! No more thinking and failing because your body has kept the score, your feelings are the ones that are ruling and your head can tell you one thing while your emotions will tell you otherwise. But with EMDR your head, emotions, and sensations can finally all be in harmony! There is more to EMDR than meets the eye though! (pun intended!)

How does EMDR work? Tell me more!

EMDR therapy has eight phases and works with a three-pronged model (Past, present, and future triggers).  When the brain processes trauma, it is stored in the body in a way that is negative for the person and is due to incomplete processing, but what EMDR does is facilitate resuming of normal processing and integration of the memory network, through the methods that have been previously mentioned. What you get is results that alleviate present symptoms, the decreasing or elimination of distress from the disturbing memories, an improved view of oneself, relief from disturbances in the body, and resolution of present triggers and anticipated future triggers.

The term “Desensitization”; however, can be misleading and misinterpreted as most people think that the information in our brains is just going to be “numbed” or “faded”; however, that is not the case. EMDR’s effects include a multifaceted impact of reprocessing every single aspect of the negative information and turning it into a healthy and useful resolution (e.g., change of belief, positive introspection, changes in physical sensations and behaviors). Ultimately there is positive integration.

EMDR’s “AIP” model, or “Adaptive Information Processing” model is a system that is geared to integrate both internal and external experiences, because memories are stored in the associative memory networks which are the very basis of a person’s perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors. What is very interesting however is that our brains are designed towards optimal health and adaptive functioning. It is trauma that causes disruption of that normal adaptive information processing that results in information to become unprocessed and held in dysfunctional ways in the memory networks. By processing the negative memories (or unprocessed information) through EMDR therapy, non-adaptive perceptions, affects, and sensations will be discarded and there will be shifts in all components of memory, which can include sense of time, age, symptoms, reactive behaviors, and a sense of self! You can achieve all you’ve ever wanted to achieve without the years of therapy you might have to in other types of therapy.

What’s it worth to you to keep living the same way you’ve been living? Would it hurt to try something that can be so beneficial to you that your life may never be the same? With EMDR therapy, you don’t have to be stuck in those negative patterns anymore. Be freed from those patterns of unhelpful unconscious materials that keep coming up and sabotaging your day to day life. EMDR can help! Find a therapist at Clarity Family Therapy that practices EMDR today! Don’t let your anxiety overwhelm you anymore. You can finally take control of your past and get past your past with the help of EMDR therapy.

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