Ever wonder how you can work on your anxiety? Do you have this one bad feeling you just can’t get rid of? Do you have a bothersome memory from childhood that you just can’t get over? Do you struggle to make healthy decisions in life, but can’t quite figure out why? These are just some of the reasons I’ve utilized EMDR as an Atlanta therapist. I’ve seen success for clients dealing with anxiety related to high-pressure jobs, social anxiety, relationship issues, weight loss challenges, family issues, trauma, fear based decision-making, alcohol cessation, and more.
EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization reprocessing. It’s a type of therapy that utilizes back and forth eye movement to assist the brain with processing trauma. Trauma can be big or little (Bit T or little t), so you don’t have to have experienced a major traumatic event for EMDR to be helpful. A small trauma can be as simple as being expected to be perfect, a spider bite, a negative word spoken, being mildly bullied as a child, etc. The eye movement utilized is similar to the eye movement we experience when we sleep (rapid eye movement or REM.)
Have you ever noticed that we don’t get PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from nightmares? The idea is that because our eyes move back and forth our brains are able to store the nightmares effectively and we therefore do not develop PTSD from them.
During EMDR the client is completely conscious and remains in control. The clinician simply assists the client with eye movement while processing things in the brain. The great thing about EMDR is that it is very different than talk therapy, and the client’s brain does all the work. I’ll explain this a bit more.
When we experience a trauma (remember it can be big T or little t) sometimes our brains struggle to store the trauma effectively. So, it sits in our subconscious, and our neural pathways begin forming around the trauma. This means that when we think, act, behave, etc, all of that is going through the neural pathways that have formed around the trauma. Sometimes we get triggered and an event will bump up against the memory, and we experience symptoms related to it. Maybe it’s anxiety. Maybe it’s an uncomfortable gut feeling. Maybe it’s depression. Maybe we start sweating, or we get angry, or moody….different people’s bodies respond in different ways. EMDR works to help the brain process the trauma and simply store it more effectively. Simply put, it brings down the intensity of response to the trauma or memory. By reprocessing the trauma through eye movement, our neural pathways adjust, and the memory is stored differently. Thus, we are able to view the trauma differently and aren’t so triggered.
Now, EMDR isn’t a magic pill. It doesn’t erase memories. It doesn’t make them go away. Just like any therapy, it can be hard work because the brain stores some pretty intense memories that we are not always aware of. When receiving EMDR therapy, those memories can be brought up by the brain. But don’t worry, we can move through them quickly, stop if you want, choose not to “go there”….the client is in control and we work at your pace and your comfort levels.
I’m so passionate about EMDR because I have seen it help clients that really needed it. It’s actually a more short-term therapy as well, so I find that in 6 or so sessions my clients see great results. Sometimes with small t traumas they actually see great results with less than this. I can’t say that EMDR is 100% effective 100% of the time, and it’s not for everyone, but it has been a go-to for many of my clients.
There’s so much more to be said about EMDR, and it’s difficult to put it all down in words, but I welcome all of my clients to be inquisitive. Ask questions. Find a therapist that’s right for you. Find a therapy that’s right for you. There are so many great clinicians and great therapist out there, and I’m passionate about people getting the help they need. I guess that’s the heart of a therapist.