How EMDR Can Change your Brain and Transform your Life
This new breakthrough may help you overcome fear, boost your confidence, and achieve your goals
Everything that happens to us impacts how we see ourselves and our world. Events we perceive as “negative” or “traumatic” can have a long-lasting negative effect on our lives and can cause troubling issues such as:
Fear of driving (especially after an accident)
Fear of flying
Disturbing memories of childhood verbal, physical and sexual abuse
If these issues are left unresolved, they can significantly interfere with our daily lives and relationships.
In order to deal with these issues, researchers have found a highly effective treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing) that allows clients to overcome their fears in a relatively short period of time.
What is EMDR ?
EMDR is an eight-step treatment approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 80’s. The theory behind EMDR is that this approach allows the brain to work in a similar way to Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. When we are in a dream state, our eyes move back and forth in a rapid manner, which researchers believe allows our brain to process information. The theory is that the eye movement during REM sleep causes stimulation to both sides of the brain (called bi-lateral stimulation) to allow for information processing. As the information processes, issues can be resolved. This dream state may be the reason why we have a different perspective on issues after a good night’s sleep.
During the development of EMDR, Dr Shapiro found that using eye movements in a waking state appeared to relieve anxiety. Since that time, researchers have also discovered that sounds and touch may also stimulate both sides of the brain to bring anxiety and stress relief. EMDR appears to work with the brain to physiologically re-process negative emotional material so that positive messages and feelings can emerge. Through bi-lateral stimulation, clients appear to become de-sensitized to situations or circumstances in which they had previously found anxiety-provoking.
Story of Hope
Many of my clients have talked about experiencing a split between their thoughts and their feelings—They may understand logically that their fears may be irrational, but their feelings may still be overwhelming.
For example, my client, Linda*, who grew up with an alcoholic father, had struggled for years with anxiety and panic when her loved ones did not come home on time, even though her common sense would tell her that everything was fine. As a child, Linda and her mother would become highly anxious when her father didn’t come home when expected. Because Linda knew that her father was out drinking, she would obsessively worry about him getting into a serious car accident.
At 39, Linda was experiencing the same anxiety when her husband was running late from the office. Although her logic would tell her that he was probably fine, she would be overcome with the fear that something terrible had happened.
During my first EMDR session with Linda, we focused on de-sensitizing her anxiety and re-processing the memory of her alcoholic father. After this session, Linda’s experience changed dramatically. The next time that Linda’s husband wasn’t home on time, Linda thought to herself, “ His meeting must be running late,” and she continued with her household activities. Twenty minutes later, she realized that she wasn’t panicked. Once the feelings of her childhood were re-processed, Linda was able to listen to her logic and stay calm.
Does EMDR Really Work?
There have been several scientific studies with clients who were suffering from severe anxiety due to highly traumatic circumstances such as military combat and rape. These studies have shown that these clients have shown a significant improvement in their symptoms of intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and anxiety. (For a list of clinical studies, please refer to the websites below.)
Researchers have found that a major advantage of EMDR is the speed at which it works. Most clients report some relief after the first EMDR session. The number of sessions needed is based on several factors such as each individual’s needs, the type of problem being addressed, and the severity of the anxiety.
Will EMDR Help Me?
If you feel that anxiety is affecting your life, there is hope. The first step in finding out whether EMDR is right for you is to contact a licensed mental health professional who has taken approved training in EMDR. Find out if the clinician routinely utilizes EMDR in their practice with successful results. It is important to ask about their experience in dealing with your particular issue.
I am a trained EMDR clinician practicing in Sacramento, CA., and I offer evening appointments. If I can answer any questions for you or to set up an appointment, please feel free to click here to contact me . You may also receive information from the following websites: www.emdria.org and www.emdr.com..