What Is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive and evidence-based therapy for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Research has also demonstrated successful treatment outcomes for depression, anxiety and somatic (physical) symptoms.
EMDR is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model, which posits that mental health problems are the result of maladaptive encoding or incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing life experiences. It is a well-researched approach that allows for deep, lasting healing.
Founded by Francine Shapiro in 1987, EMDR is now widely considered one of the most effective forms of trauma treatment. It is used by trauma specialists and recognized by organizations worldwide, including the World Health Organization, the US Department of Veterans Affairs and the US Department of Defense.
Beyond Talk Therapy: The EMDR Process
Traditional psychotherapy or “talk therapy” can go a long way toward helping you heal from past pain and embrace positive change in the present and future. However, the act of talking does not always release us from the grip of core negative beliefs, stubborn emotional pain or uncomfortable body sensations.
For instance, after a trauma, you consciously know the traumatic event has ended, yet you might still feel stuck in the belief that you are in danger. You still feel consumed by the emotions of fear and sensations of panic in the body. This occurs even when you logically know that you are safe, and it ultimately leaves you feeling out of control.
This can also be true for those facing other challenges, such as grief, depression, anxiety and relationship betrayals. For instance, if you are struggling with depression, you may feel worthless and believe the future holds no promise, despite clear evidence to the contrary. It is as if the brain is stuck in one gear and cannot adjust.
Your brain has many memory systems, and their disruption or dysregulation can create the barrier to change. Your brain intends to store the information you need to survive, allowing you to retain memories that will be useful for predicting encounters in the future. For most experiences, the brain is able to process the information in a way that leads to appropriate learning and storage for future use. For instance, the experience of what you ate for dinner last night is likely no longer active in your conscious awareness but could be brought up again when needed (e.g., “The dinner last night was delicious. I think I will make that again next week for friends.”) In other words, the memory of dinner is functionally stored and may eventually fade over time as it becomes less relevant.
However, some events, particularly those that threaten your sense of self or safety, overwhelm or block some memory processing systems. As a result, the information is not integrated and stored properly. Intense emotional memories are processed outside of the “thinking brain” and are prone to continuous activation, leading to intrusive images, thoughts, emotions and body sensations. Research shows that these emotionally-based memories are hard to extinguish, as they are reinforced by the stress response system. Successful trauma therapy aims to integrate and properly store these emotionally-based memories.
EMDR therapy makes use of bilateral stimulation techniques (eye movements, tones or taps) that activate your information-processing system, creating a new opportunity for your brain to resolve and re-store the disturbing memory. EMDR can help you realize that the event is over, returning your body and mind to a less distressed state. It can also increase awareness of your whole lived experience, not just the negative aspects. This powerful technique can help you recognize your resources and resilience and gain a new appreciation for all of the ways you have survived.
For instance, the automatic belief, “I am powerless,” becomes, “I am no longer powerless. In fact, I have many choices today, and I have a history of making good choices in other areas of my life.”
EMDR allows you to break free of that repetitive, limiting sense of “stuckness” and begin to access and enact solutions that once seemed impossible or elusive. You can claim a greater sense of agency over your life.
My Work As An EMDR Practitioner
During therapy for trauma, PSTD , anxiety, and depression, I offer a safe, supportive space for you to address and resolve issues at their root. While my talk therapy sessions are often flexible and client-led, EMDR sessions follow a standard protocol. So, while I will be aware of your individual needs and attuned to your emotions in the moment, I will also make sure we’re following our agreed-upon treatment plan.
I am careful to start EMDR treatment only when you are ready to do deep healing work. Although EMDR does not require you to repeatedly share details about what you’ve gone through, it can bring up uncomfortable emotions and body sensations. It’s my job to monitor and facilitate safety and stabilization as your brain attempts to heal. This often means starting off with building healthy coping skills and emotion regulation strategies.
For example, mindfulness plays a significant role in overcoming trauma and other challenges. Mindfulness allows you to remain grounded in the present moment, even as you look back to a painful memory. In “EMDR speak,” we call this “dual attention.” Dual attention makes it possible for you to recognize the traumatic experience’s place in the past, while also recognizing that you are safe in the present.
Body awareness is another key component of EMDR. By tuning into how you feel in your body, you can more clearly recognize signs of distress before they become overwhelming. You can also consciously return your body to a state of calm and begin to feel more comfortable in your skin.
Throughout the entirety of our time together, I am here to offer empathetic support and help you remain determined and accountable. I know how hard it can be to believe that you can feel safe and whole. I went through my own process of searching for trauma healing. For years, I tried many forms of therapy which helped on the surface but didn’t address the main issue keeping me stuck. I also worked with many clients who seemed caught in a loop, unable to find lasting relief.
Both personally and professionally, I have experienced how effective EMDR can be. You don’t have to keep feeling stuck in beliefs and feelings that don’t reflect who you are. You can release the pain of the past and hold new hope for your future.
Find Safety In The Present
I invite you to call 858-480-1499 to schedule an assessment session. I look forward to learning about you and answering any questions you may have about EMDR therapy in Del Mar, CA.