EMDR Therapy is a somatic, mindfulness based therapy modality that specializes in healing trauma.
What is trauma?
There are many different ways that one can understand trauma, traumatic events, and PTSD or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
As is the case with many issues related to our mental health, I think it is most honest and helpful to see trauma as occurring along a spectrum. This means that we all experience traumas of different intensity throughout our lives.
A dictionary definition of trauma is that “any event that has had a lasting negative effect on the self or psyche is by its nature ‘traumatic’ (Shapiro, page 39).
Trauma can be defined as anything that has happened which one is then unable to process and which leaves some amount of feeling distressed as well as other possibly symptoms that don’t just go away. Symptoms can be incredibly varied, but can include things like disturbing, intrusive thoughts and memories, a lack of confidence (in oneself, in others or in the world), painful physical sensations, tightness or rigidity, and negative, limiting self beliefs.
Many psychotherapists and researchers choose to look at trauma in terms of “Big T” trauma and “little t” trauma. Big T trauma are overwhelming events in which your survival or the survival of others was threatened. Little T trauma occurs whenever something difficult happens that for whatever reason, you are unable to process, leaving you with feelings of distress and symptoms that continue to affect you. Despite this language, ‘Little T’ traumas can be very significant and can continue to negatively impact our lives.
It is fascinating how multiple people can experience the same event and have such different reactions to it. Some will be left with ongoing trauma or PTSD and others will move on, a little shaken but without lingering effects.
And it is well worth noting that those people who moved on and were unaffected by one traumatic event may well develop PTSD from another traumatic event in their life.
Sources: EMDR Essentials by Barb Maiberger
Eye Movement Desensitization and Repocessing (EMDR) Therapy by Francine Shapiro
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy” – it is a pretty terrible name actually and quite the mouthful!
EMDR today is one of the most researched and research supported modalities for treating PTSD, trauma and other related issues.
Exactly how it works is still a mystery, as we do not have a deep enough understanding of how our brains and nervous systems work and heal at this point in history. According to the founder of EDMR, Francine Shapiro, EMDR works primarily on the level of information processing. Unlike other forms of therapy, it does not require that the traumatic events be described in great detail.
EMDR includes specific steps and stages to access and process past traumatic or disturbing memories & experiences, as well as the negative beliefs that often go along with these. It is important to know that it does not erase your memories; you will still have access to the memories but after successful EMDR processing, they will not longer disturb you or negatively affect your life in the present moment.
There are 8 Phases of EMDR Treatment.
- History Taking
- Preparation – EMDR Therapy Readiness
- Body Scan