Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed as a therapy that addresses trauma and PTSD. It has also been found to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, panic, disturbing memories and complex grief. Here is a link to the EMDR International Association for more information. Here is a TED talk related to anxiety and EMDR:
EMDR in a nutshell
Let’s start with a bit about our brains. Disturbing experiences can get locked in our brain. It can feel like something is stuck or jammed. Memories can be stored with pictures, sounds, thoughts, feelings and/or body sensations. Sometimes memories of a disturbing experience can be easily triggered by everyday events. Sometimes we just can’t stop thinking about them. Sometimes we have flashbacks or nightmares.
The human brain is an amazing learning machine that wants to understand. It asks questions and wants answers. It tries to solve problems. The brain wants to learn from our experiences. It keeps going back to things that happened and asks questions such as ” What should I have done differently? What really happened?” “Why did I survive?” “What about next time?” Flashbacks are the brain doing the work of trying to understand. Flashbacks are also the brain’s way of telling us that now is the time to work on this. We can do this.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to help the brain answer some questions or put the questions to rest. It helps the brain store disturbing memories in a healthy way so those experiences become a part of the story – not the main story. It helps the brain store disturbing memories so they are not easily stimulated and triggered by every day events.
EMDR therapy trusts the brain to be able to understand and to heal. Just as the rest of our body is programmed to heal, so is our brain. EMDR doesn’t try to convince a person to think differently. But in the healing process we do see things differently, understand differently and think about things differently.
During EMDR therapy the client stays in control of this process. In this therapy the therapist is more like a coach – holding the space, creating safety and trusting the process that will bring healing.
EMDR is not for everyone. But is can be a powerful and effective therapy that can bring about significant relief in a timely fashion.