EMDR: An Accelerateed Healing Technique
In 1988, Francine Shapiro, PhD, discovered a way to reduce the symptoms associated with trauma. By chance, she found that pairing troubling thoughts from unpleasant events while moving one’s eyes from left to right reduced negative feelings and negative beliefs about the event. This outcome caused her to develop a technique called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR as it has come to be called. From that initial discovery ensued clinical trials and research on her theory. Initially, she began her research with Vietnam War veterans who were struggling with the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) since their return from the war. The veterans were describing such symptoms as flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts associated with their experiences of war. Dr. Shapiro used a combination of asking the veteran to recall certain traumatic memories while instructing the veteran to follow her fingers as she moved them from left to right. Often just after three to four sessions, the clients reported that they were having fewer nightmares and troubling thoughts about the events they had experienced in war.
EMDR works along similar principles of REM sleep. REM occurs during part of a person’s sleep cycle. During this cycle, a sleeping individual will move his eyes from left to right while asleep. This cycle is believed to allow a person’s subconscious to come floating to the top in order assist one to make sense of certain aspects of his/her life. EMDR replicates this process while a client is awake and able to recall memories of troubling events in their life.
There are two types of trauma. The first type, which is at times referred to as the “big T”, occurs when individuals have experienced a horrific event such as being present in a national disaster, rape, combat or an accident. A “little t” is an event that may have occurred in childhood such as being teased/bullied by peers or being shamed by a parent. A “big T” typically brings symptoms of anxiety of the event happening again, an inability to shake the images of what occurred and, at times, nightmares of the event. A “big T” interferes with everyday life and can disrupt an individual’s work and personal life. Negative beliefs about one’s self develop with thoughts such as “I am powerless”, “I am unlovable” or “I am insignificant”. These beliefs can cause depression and anxiety. “Little t’s” seem to affect one’s sense of self and individuals can begin to develop poor self-esteem and other negative patterns of thinking and believing due to childhood events.
EMDR is done in a therapist’s office by a counselor who has been trained in the EMDR technique. After introducing and explaining how the EMDR process works, a thorough assessment/history of the client is done to ensure that the individual is able to continue with the process. The client is taught relaxation skills to assist them with any troubling sensations that occur while undergoing the EMDR process. The client chooses a memory or a troubling feeling/belief that has happened in his/her life. The therapist then has the client rate the intensity of the memory and the strength of the negative impact on the client. The client is then asked to move his eyes from left to right while recalling the memory or the troubling event. As this process continues, the outcome often is that the individual makes a connection to new beliefs such as, “I did the best I could” or “I am significant; I matter”.
In the last 22 years, EMDR has become one of the preferred methods of working with traumatized veterans coming back from wars. Today therapists are assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to reduce PTSD symptoms with the use of this process. Currently there are over 15,000 therapists who have been trained in the EMDR technique. Research is showing as favorable for helping reduce the negative beliefs that occur with childhood events as well. If you struggle with negative beliefs or past trauma issues, consider EMDR as a viable way to heal these issues. This modality is available at WHC.Tags: accelerated trauma treatment, EMDR, Trauma treatment
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
- Dorothy Molczyk, LMHP LADC, provides individual, family and group therapy at Wholeness Healing Center. She is experienced in serving children, adolescents and adults. Her areas of specialty include substance abuse/dependency, healing from traumatic events, recovering from loss, and behavior disorders in children and adolescents.
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