What is EMDR? And why do people like it?
Originally, in 1989, EMDR (as it would later be called) began as a treatment just for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since then, EMDR has since been found effective for a wider variety of problems, not just combat PTSD — and not even just for other types of PTSD but a variety of other types of problems. What these different kinds of problems have in common is the role of distressing experiences; there was a negative experience that continues to negatively affect you…maybe long after it happened. Researchers are reporting positive outcomes when using EMDR to treat other sorts of problems such as some forms of depression, grief, anger management problems, public speaking nervousness, addiction, and more.
Some people prefer EMDR to other kinds of talk therapy because it does not require extensive talking about the details of terrible experience — such as abuse or sexual assault — in order to benefit. And for that reason, many people choose this kind of therapy or choose to include it as part of their regular talk therapy.
Basically, EMDR begins with teaching you how to soothe your nervous system’s anxious arousal. Between sessions you practice doing soothing techniques, and just as you notice that a habit of exercising causes your body to change positively, consistently practicing these soothing techniques causes your nervous system to change positively. Then, during sessions, we use a technique that keeps you simultaneously focused on the present moment and able to think about the past event. (You do not have to talk about your memories of the past event, just know which past event it is that you are thinking about.)
By keeping you in this state, it seems that the memory for the event is reprocessed, seemingly moved from the part of the memory where upsetting memories are stored and relocated to another part of the brain where memories are not upsetting. Thus, at the end of the process, you are still able to remember the upsetting experience, but it no longer upsets you — just like you can remember what you had for breakfast yesterday but you probably do not have any associated emotional upset when you think about it. Plus, the previously upsetting memories no longer intrude into your current thoughts without your wanting them to, and you’ll notice that the things, people, and places you might have been avoiding because they brought back distressing feelings aren’t such an issue anymore.
So if you are having problems with anxiety or trauma, let’s do an evaluation. After evaluating what kind of problems you are having, I can offer you treatment options and a description of how we might proceed. Then you can decide what feels like the right choice for you.