How EMDR therapy helps you to process and heal from traumatic experiences.
Updated: Aug 11
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a proven, evidence based therapy that helps individuals process and heal from traumatic experiences.
If you have experienced something horrible and developed psychological symptoms such as flashbacks, fear, sadness, or sleep problems, you may well benefit from EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy, a proven and evidence based therapy.
Whether you have involved in a motor vehicle accident, being bitten up by a dog, or sexual abuse, such intense experiences can leave a strong imprint in your long-term memory system, causing distress for a significant period of time. The disturbing memories may resurface repeatedly, bringing forth emotions like powerlessness and worthlessness.
During EMDR therapy, the therapist will ask you to focus on the traumatic event while rapidly moving their fingers back and forth in front of your eyes. You will be requested to track the movements of the fingers as quickly as you can.
By holding the traumatic memory in your mind while following the finger movements, the fragmented memories undergo a processing phase where the emotional charges of the memories will start to lessen. As a result, the memory becomes less vivid and loses its emotional intensity, you may find it easier to adopt a different perspective on the experience and feel in control again.
You may notice feeling less powerless and regaining a sense of self-worth and power. The intrusive thoughts subside, and anxiety and depression may decrease. With a reduced burden from the past, you can start to enjoy life again and look forward to the future.
Mechanisms and Theories behind EMDR therapy:
1. Dual Attention:
EMDR involves dual attention, where individuals simultaneously focus on distressing memories and engage in bilateral stimulation, the rapid eye movements. This dual attention is giving more work for individual's working memory, system, making the brain more difficult for distressing memories to fully activate the emotional centres of the brain, hence, help reducing the intensity of negative emotions associated with the traumatic experiences.
2. Adaptive Information Processing:
EMDR facilitates the brain's healing process by reprocessing traumatic memories and integrating them into the individual's existing memory networks. Through the bilateral stimulation and guidance of the EMDR therapist, individuals are able to access and reprocess traumatic memories. This memory reprocessing allows individuals to develop new insights towards the events and reduce distressing symptoms.
3. Memory Reconsolidation:
when a traumatic memory is retrieved, it becomes temporarily unstable. By engaging in bilateral stimulation during the retrieval process, EMDR may help facilitate the reconsolidation of the memory in a less distressing and more adaptive form.
4. Neurobiological Effects:
EMDR has been shown to have neurobiological effects, including changes in brain activity and connectivity. Bilateral stimulation has been found to modulate the amygdala, a brain structure involved in fear processing, and to enhance the prefrontal cortex's executive functioning.
**While EMDR has shown promising results in helping individuals to process and heal from trauma, EMDR should be conducted by trained professionals who can create a safe therapeutic environment and guide individuals through the process effectively. Find out more with Pegasus Integrated Health’s trained EMDR therapist here.