EMDR & Trauma

ELIZABETH WILSON
LMFT, LADC, MSW

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist    Licensed Alcohol & Drug Counselor    EMDR Therapist


   EMDR & Trauma    

   _______________________

 What is Trauma?   

   _______________________

Trauma is often the result of a severely distressing event and an overwhelming amount of stress that exceeds one's ability to cope or integrate the emotions involved with that experience. Symptoms of trauma and emotional distress can result from a disturbing event.  Trauma symptoms are a sign that the brain needs attention. 




Trauma can result in insomnia or nightmares, hypervigilence, flashbacks, anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, intrusive memories or dissociative reactions. Other symptoms could be irritability, persistent negative beliefs about oneself or the world, diminished interest in past enjoyable activities, self-destructive behaviors, problems concentrating or feeling alienated from others.  Trauma symptoms are a reminder that we need resolution
.
 What is EMDR?   

   _______________________

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) has been found useful in treating

Panic Attacks, Complicated Grief,
Dissociative Disorders,
Disturbing Memories

 Phobias, Pain Disorders, Performance Anxiety, Stress Reduction, Addictions
 Sexual and/or Physical Abuse, Body Dysmorphic Disorders, Personality Disorders

It is a form of psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

Successful treatment with EMDR, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal associated with stress is reduced.

How does EMDR work?   

   _______________________

While research is actively taking place, the precise mechanism by which EMDR works to resolve traumatic stress is unclear, in part because we are just beginning to understand exactly how the brain processes intense memories and emotions. However, a number of neuropsychologists believe EMDR enables the person undergoing treatment to rapidly access traumatic memories and process them emotionally and cognitively, which facilitates their resolution.

“We believe that EMDR induces a fundamental change in brain circuitry similar to what happens in REM sleep — that allows the person undergoing treatment to more effectively process and incorporate traumatic memories into general association networks in the brain. This helps the individual integrate and understand the memories within the larger context of his or her life experience.”      

Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

By accessing these memories in the context of a safe environment, the hypothesis is that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and the development of cognitive insights about the memories and process them emotionally and cognitively, which facilitates their resolution.

“EMDR quickly opens new windows on reality, allowing people to see solutions within themselves that they never knew were there. And it’s a therapy where the client is very much in charge, which can be particularly meaningful when people are recovering from having their power taken away by abuse and violation.”     

Laura S. Brown, Ph.D.  Past Recipient of the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Public Service