Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) allows for healing of symptoms and emotional distress of traumatic memories. EMDR is a specialized treatment for trauma and anxiety. EMDR was first used for war veterans who experienced trauma in the field of battle and came home with PTSD. Today we know it can help with so much more than PTSD but is still the most used for those clients. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. With EMDR the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
Traumatic memories are stored in the brain differently than other kinds of memories. During a traumatic event, the fight-or-flight response kicks in to cope with the immediate situation. But the brain often cannot make sense of the event. The information processing system of the brain gets disrupted. As a result, the memory of the event gets stored in a fragmented and unfinished fashion that keeps reemerging in the present. The memory of the traumatic event seems frozen. The painful thoughts, feelings, sensations and images associated with the traumatic event seem to be locked in the nervous system.
EMDR therapy shifts how trauma is stored in the brain and reduces the disturbing emotions, sensations, symptoms, and beliefs associated with those experiences. Through the use of eye movements, EMDR therapy fundamentally changes the way the memory is stored.
The EMDR process can reduce sensitivity that you have around the traumatic memory, painful thoughts or feelings. The emotional charge associated with the traumatic memory is eliminated or reduced. Clients are often amazed that issues they’ve worked on for years in talk therapy become suddenly lighter after several EMDR therapy sessions.
Childhood trauma can be successfully treated with EMDR therapy. It often takes longer to treat childhood trauma than trauma experienced as an adult. The good news is that EMDR has been proven to be effective to treat childhood trauma. Significant benefits are often observed within a few months of starting EMDR therapy for childhood trauma.
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