More and more people are becoming familiar with a highly effective therapeutic treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). While being known as cutting edge, EMDR is not so new. It’s been around for over 25 years, and has earned the reputation as one of the most effective treatments for everything from mood disorders to addiction to ADHD…from sleep disorders to phobias. And, it is arguably the Gold Standard for the treatment of trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). What’s more, EMDR is effective in a relatively short period of time, providing relief from symptoms in only a few sessions.
How is this possible? The answer is: Bilateral brain stimulation.
Bilateral brain stimulation is a naturally occurring process that happens when we sleep. The scientific explanation is that two regions of the brain–the Amygdala and the Hippocampus–communicate over a physical “bridge” called the Corpus Callosum. During this time, it is believed that the mind makes sense of our experiences…from our daily routines to the serious issues that have bothered us for years. By looking at details of early events, a map can be created to re-experience the event, while simultaneously interrupting the working memory. This creates an opportunity to process the experience and gain enough distance from it, so that it is weaved back into the life narrative and is “desensitized” and “reprocessed” (thus the name, EMDR).
In an EMDR therapy session, bilateral brain stimulation is activated through eye movement, or auditory or tactile stimulation. During the bilateral brain stimulation, the therapist targets the earliest known incidents of the disturbance, and works chronologically forward to “clear” the disturbance and relevant experiences and associations. Clearing these targets allows for the reduction of recurring thoughts, images, and feelings. Subsequently, the stress response is moderated and ultimately becomes more balanced.
Nicholas Strouse, a certified EMDR therapist, and the Director of Westport Family Counseling reflects on the process, “Many of my clients react in disbelief. However, once I clear up their misconceptions, most are very eager to try it.”
What are the misconceptions? Well, EMDR is not used to retrieve memories, nor does it erase memories. There is no trance, no hypnosis, no altered state, no “code words”… no counting backwards from 10 to 0… There is only conversation, while bilateral brain stimulation is incurred.
EMDR is continuing to gain more recognition and research funding to create more data to prove its effectiveness. The current research findings are showing that EMDR is safe and effective in treating a wide range of conditions.
Written by Carolyn Yates, MFT