What is EMDR?

EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing – is an innovative method of psychotherapy that enhances people’s ability to resolve problems in day to day life by assisting them to attend to internal experiences and external stimuli at the same time. Although EMDR started with a chance observation in 1987, EMDR procedures have since been extensively examined in controlled scientific studies and have been found to be effective for the treatment of specific symptoms and conditions. EMDR is best known and best studied as a treatment to help resolve emotional distress arising from overwhelming life experiences such as sexual assault and other violent crimes, automobile and industrial accidents, combat trauma, airline and train crashes and natural disasters. Such events commonly lead to symptoms in adults such as phobias, panic attacks, nightmares, insomnia, substance abuse, and in children such as oppositional behavior, bed wetting, and sleep disturbances. EMDR is also increasingly being used as part of the growing field of positive psychology to enhance performance for people at home, at work, in sports and in the performing arts, as well as diminishing symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder.

How Does EMDR Work?

It is not entirely clear how EMDR works because neuroscience researchers are still exploring how the brain works. Indeed, how any method of psychotherapy works has yet to be established definitively. However, there is evidence for an innate adaptive information processing system that exists as part of human thinking and emotional self-regulation. Research suggests that when a person is very upset, the brain cannot process information as it normally does. Some traumatic events and recurring situations that provoke intense emotion becomes ‘frozen in time’, and ‘stuck’ in the information processing system. Present day internal and external reminders of these experiences often trigger a re-experiencing of sights, sounds, smells, thoughts, body sensations or emotions that can feel as intense as when first experienced. Such unresolved memories may have a profoundly negative impact on the way a person sees the world and relates to other people. Under the influence of such unresolved experiences, behavior tends to become inflexible and constricted to avoid painful re-experiencing. EMDR appears to produce a direct effect on the way the brain processes upsetting material. Research suggests that attending to eye movements, auditory tones or hand taps as part of the EMDR procedures triggers an innate neuro-physiological mechanism known as “the investigatory response” which in turn leads to “adaptive information processing.” With “adaptive information processing” it is primarily the person’s own innate capacities, rather than the interpretations or thoughts of the therapist that lead to adaptive changes in thinking and emotional self-regulation. With successful EMDR treatment, the upsetting experiences are worked through to “adaptive resolution.” The person receiving EMDR comes to understand that the event is in the past, realizes appropriately who or what was responsible for the event occurring, and feels more certain about present-day safety and the capacity to make good choices. What happened can still be remembered by the person, but with much less upset. The person finds that new, more flexible behaviors feel more possible and inviting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR can be thought of as incorporating a neuro-physiologically-based process that allows a natural healing process to emerge. Clinical reports and analysis of multiple research studies suggest that EMDR treatment procedures initial effects more rapidly, permits a more rapid and complete working through of disturbance and has a lower drop out rate than more conventional methods.

What are the Advantages of EMDR?

Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences. When used in conjunction with other therapy modalities, EMDR helps move the client quickly from emotional distress to peaceful resolution of the issues or events involved. EMDR sessions work amazingly fast. Processing even the most difficult memories can be achieved in a fraction of the time it would have taken with traditional therapy. Traditional therapies often focus on memories from the unconscious mind, and then analyze their meaning to gain insight into the problem. EMDR clients also acquire valuable insights during therapy, but EMDR can short-cut the process and go right to the releasing stage. The positive, long-term results of EMDR therapy affect all levels of the client’s well-being — mental, emotional and physical, so that their responses return to normalcy and health. Studies consistently show that treatment with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotion . The memory is remains but the negative emotional charge or “response” is neutralized.

What are some of the areas that can be helped by EMDR?

• loss of a loved one • injury of a loved one • car accident • fire • work accident • assault • robbery • rape • natural disaster • injury • illness• trauma • performance anxiety • stage fright • depression • anxiety or panic • phobias • fears • childhood trauma • physical abuse • sexual abuse • post traumatic stress

Can EMDR help me achieve Peak Performance?

EMDR can diminish and remove performance blocks and anxieties the same way it desensitizes traumatic stress reactions, because all of these reactions occur in the same deep part of the brain – its “emergency center.” When this instinctive part of the brain senses danger, it goes into “fight or flight” and rational mental processing in the rest of the brain shuts down. Once a certain situation triggers a “fight/flight” reaction, it will have the same upsetting effect until it is desensitized. EMDR is one of the very few methods that can change that negative programming, and neutralize the negative reaction pattern. As clients move beyond their old “fight/flight” reactions, and they begin functioning well in previously blocked areas, opportunities for greater success open up. Clients often surprise themselves after overcoming these reactions, even volunteering for previously dreaded tasks without thinking twice about it. EMDR for Peak Performance can enhance and “install” positive programming for future tasks, challenges and performances. – it can increase creativity, enthusiasm, self-confidence, and quality of work performance. It can enable you to move beyond your current best to higher levels. And you will find that these techniques “pre-program” your brain, allowing you to focus exclusively on the task or performance itself.

Can EMDR hep me with Creativity?

EMDR for Peak Performance can increase your creative abilities. When you feel stuck, EMDR can help you access your creative power and get ideas to flow naturally again. Creativity enhancement techniques are used as often with business and professional clients as with creative and performing artists, because empowering the creative process gets exciting, high impact results. Role and Character Enhancement for Performers of all kinds – a unique type of Creativity Enhancement, in which the EMDR process helps you to get intensely connected to the role, history, and motivations of any character you wish to portray. This is done in the context of live rehearsal. In addition to actors, singers, dancers, and writers, people in sales, the law, and leadership positions can learn to “inhabit” certain styles that work best for the task at hand.

Who can be helped by EMDR?

People who have experienced or witnessed violence, disasters, crimes, sexual assault and other traumas, victims of crime and professionals such as police, emergency workers and firefighters; accident victims and anyone who has experienced a serious loss (such as the death of a close friend of family member, divorce, etc.). EMDR is also very effective treatment for people suffering from phobias–fear of flying, water, spiders, etc. Because EMDR has the power to relieve any type of emotional block or fear, It can also be used to enhance the performance of athletes, actors, musicians, students, public speakers and executives. Reduce performance anxiety and stage fright.

Are there Studies that show EMDR is effective?

EMDR is the most thoroughly researched method ever used in the treatment of PTSD & trauma. There are more controlled studies on EMDR than on any other method. A recent study of individuals who experienced rape, military combat, loss of loved ones, disasters and serious accidents, found that 84-90% had relief of their emotional distress after only three EMDR sessions. Another study showed that EMDR was twice as effective in half the amount of time of standard traditional psychotherapeutic care. Another study of subjects with post traumatic stress revealed that the significant improvement they gained with the EMDR treatments were maintained for at least 15 months. Although some people have dramatic responses in a short period of time, others will progress more slowly. However, the results will be equally effective and long lasting. Since Dr. Shapiro’s initial efficacy study in 1989, world-wide research has helped develop and evolve EMDR. To date, more than half a million people have benefited from EMDR therapy.

What happens in an EMDR Session?

Just as EMDR assists the brain with its natural processing of emotional information, the EMDR therapist assists the client in their healing process by becoming a partner on a journey to release past trauma from the client’s nervous system. A typical EMDR session begins with the therapist gently guiding the client to pinpoint a problem or event that will be the target of the treatment. As the thoughts and feelings come to the surface, the therapist and client work together to re-direct the eye movements that accompany the briefly recalled experience. As the eye movements are re-directed, the accompanying emotions are released. The patterns of eye movements continue until the emotions are neutralized and the event is re-associated with positive thoughts and feelings about oneself, such as “I realize now that it wasn’t my fault.”

How often would I need EMDR?

Typically, an EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The length of the session depends upon a number of factors, including the nature and history of the problem, the degree of trauma, the specific circumstances on that particular day, etc. The history and evaluations are usually done in a few sessions. Then, in some cases, where a single recent traumatic event is involved, a single session of EMDR may be all that is required. However, a more typical course of treatment is somewhere between 5 and 15 sessions usually on a weekly basis. For individuals with a history of multiple painful experiences and years of feeling bad about them, a number of EMDR sessions may be needed. EMDR is most effective when used in conjunction with other modes of therapy. Your therapist will discuss a plan of treatment with you ahead of time so you will generally know what to expect. Usually, several sessions are necessary for the therapist to evaluate whether or not EMDR is the appropriate choice of therapy.

Is there any discomfort in the EMDR process?

The EMDR treatment can evoke strong emotions or sensations during a session. This is perfectly normal and desirable, since the technique works on the negative feelings when they are brought into the client’s awareness. However, the re-experiencing of these unpleasant feelings is brief and they will soon leave you when the process is completed. If the client will persevere through the upsetting memories for a short time, he or she will likely be thrilled with the outcome of the therapy. Relief It occurs rapidly, and for many, permanently.

What happens between EMDR sessions?

Between EMDR sessions, it is a good idea for the client to keep a daily log in which to record any unusual or noteworthy thoughts or feelings. He or she can then bring their notes to the next EMDR session. This log will help the therapist to know if any adjustments in therapy are warranted. After an EMDR session, there may be a strong sense of relief, a feeling of openness or even euphoria. This is a normal reaction to the release that has, and is, taken place.  From time to time, some clients experience unusual thoughts or vivid dreams that may or may not have any meaning. This is part of the releasing process and should not cause undue concern. Actually, unusual experiences during the time period of the EMDR therapy indicates that it is working.

Is EMDR hypnosis?

No. During the EMDR session, the client is awake and alert and in control at all times. The healing that takes place with EMDR is much faster than with hypnotherapy. Like hypnosis, EMDR seems to work with the unconscious mind, bringing into consciousness the repressed thoughts and feelings that must be experienced again in order to release their energetic hold on the person.

What type of training does a therapist need to practice EMDR?

The EMDR Institute offers two levels of training and Certification Level I is an Introductory Training. Level II is the Advanced Training. EMDR Level II Therapists can now go for more advanced skills and training and become EMDRIA Certified Therapists. Only practicing, licensed psychotherapists, psychiatrists, social workers and counselors may receive EMDR training. These are the only mental health professionals qualified to use EMDR therapy with clients. A clinical background is necessary for proper application of the EMDR technique. This is a highly specialized method that requires supervised training for therapeutic effectiveness and client safety. In the words of the Behavior Therapist Journal, “Clients are at risk if untrained clinicians attempt to use EMDR.”

How do I know if EMDR is right for me?

There are a number factors to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of EMDR therapy for a client’s particular situation and history. During your initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapist, all the relevant factors will be discussed in full to help you both come to a decision to move forward with EMDR.  In general though, you are an excellent candidate for the EMDR technique if you have:  difficulty trusting people, fear of being alone, lack of motivation, anxiety or panic, frequent feelings of guilt or shame, poor concentration or memory, explosive or irrational anger, trouble sleeping, nightmares, worrying or brooding, poor self-image, serious relationship problems, stage fright or performance anxiety, obsessive or compulsive behavior, chronic feelings of detachment, extreme, unexplainable fears, bad temper, depression or disturbing thoughts, a history of abuse, or sexual abuse, been the victim of a crime or serious accident, witnessed a crime or serious accident, been through a natural disaster, ever experienced a traumatic event

Contact Us

  • Julieann Myers – Center for Healthy Change
    1442 Camino Del Mar, Suites 212 (Main Office), 221, 220, 219, 218, 204, 214,
    Del Mar, California 92014
  • 1 (760) 634-1704
  • Julieann@CenterForHealthyChange.Com

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