EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR Used For?

Psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987 to treat post-traumatic stress (PTSD). Since then, it has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress.

EMDR can be very effective in helping people who do not suffer from major trauma but are nevertheless impacted by adverse childhood experiences. For adults, examples include dysfunctional family environments characterized by lack of nurturing, high conflict/criticism, or alcoholism/substance abuse. For children examples include humiliations such as being bullied; failures; and peer problems. Studies have shown that the impact from general adverse life events such as these can be as devastating, if not more so, than major traumas. EMDR is also used to enhance performance, self-esteem and coping skills.

Extensive research has proven the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of:

  • Anxiety
  • Low self-esteem
  • Phobias
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Worries about future events such as medical procedures
  • Trauma, such as post traumatic stress (PTSD)
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How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR is a mind-body therapy that incorporates directional movement of the eyes at specific stages in the process. Similar to the ‘rapid eye movements’ that occur during ‘REM’ sleep and dreaming, this activity works to "unlock" the nervous system and allows the brain to rapidly and gently reprocess disturbing events, seeing them in a new and more integrated way.

When a disturbing event happens, it can become “frozen” in the nervous system with the original visual images, sounds, negative thoughts, body sensations and emotions associated with it. This can happen with single traumatic events such as natural disasters, medical trauma, car accidents, military combat, and assault. However, it can also happen with stress repeated over time, for example when someone suffers verbal, sexual or emotional abuse or grows up witnessing addiction, illness or violence in the home.

To the brain, it doesn’t matter whether the disturbing event happened yesterday or 20 years ago, or whether it happened once or countless times: the past is still locked inside, frozen in time, and therefore, it feels as though the Past remains very much in the Present.

For this reason, EMDR therapy often brings relief from current symptoms such as anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, somatic distress, and nightmares. After EMDR, you still remember that the event occurred, but it is no longer distressing. The event is now stored in the brain as something bad that happened in the past, but it does not have the power to upset you in the present. This is the “desensitization” aspect of EMDR.

The “reprocessing” aspect of EMDR allows you to let go of the negative thoughts and beliefs that can get stuck when you suffer a disturbing experience. These can be replaced with healthy, positive beliefs, resulting in an improved view of yourself and your life. In this way, EMDR has a deep impact not only in helping you to stop reliving the traumatic event, but also in reprocessing and letting go of destructive negative beliefs that got stuck along with it and continue to impact your present day experience.

Is EMDR Right for Me?

EMDR is an integrative approach that targets:

  • Past disturbing experiences,
  • current triggers for distress in the present, and
  • future potential challenges to well-being.

If you are coming in for a single traumatic event such as a car accident, medical trauma or assault, EMDR can help to bring relief in several sessions. Similarly, if you want help with performance anxiety or creativity enhancement, EMDR can be a brief therapy.

If you have a history of repeated disturbing life events then EMDR is a longer term, comprehensive therapeutic approach. EMDR therapy can also be performed as an adjunctive treatment to your current psychotherapy. Your therapist can advise you on whether EMDR would be a helpful part of your treatment plan.

EMDR Therapy and Children

EMDR is an evidenced based treatment for children to help them resolve emotionally “stuck” points, any past memories that are causing them disturbance. The EMDR process is different for each child because the healing process is guided from within, as with any intervention. Some children have immediate positive responses while other children may feel tired or upset after EMDR and the benefits come a few days later.

At GMH, EMDR is part of an integrated treatment approach and is often used with other methods such as play therapy and talk therapy. EMDR will be adapted to children through the use of drums, art, and other developmentally appropriate methods.

EMDR Therapists at GMH.

Deborah Planting, L.P.A.

Deborah Planting, L.P.A. completed EMDR training in 2017 and is working towards becoming Certified through EMDRIA. She provides EMDR Therapy for adults.

Clara Penati, LCSWA

Clara Penati, LCSWA completed EMDR training in January 2018 and is working towards becoming Certified through EMDRIA. She provides EMDR therapy for children and adolescents.

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