PTSD and EMDR Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). EMDR therapy is different from the other forms of research supported trauma treatments, because it does not ask the client to describe the memory in detail and it does not involve homework.
The point of EMDR is to facilitate “the accessing of the traumatic memory network, so that information processing is enhanced, with new associations forged between the traumatic memory and more adaptive memories or information. These new associations are thought to result in complete information processing, new learning, elimination of emotional distress, and development of cognitive insights.”
It goes like this: Your brain processes events and stores memories in much the same way as a computer. Pathways are built and constructed for the cataloguing and retrieving of information. Sometimes, the circuitry is a little faulty – the information processing goes a little haywire and has to be, er, rewired. The EMDR Institute describes the process this way,
All humans are understood to have a physiologically-based information processing system. This can be compared to other body systems, such as digestion in which the body extracts nutrients for health and survival. The information processing system processes the multiple elements of our experiences and stores memories in an accessible and useful form. Memories are linked in networks that contain related thoughts, images, emotions, and sensations. Learning occurs when new associations are forged with material already stored in memory.
When a traumatic or very negative event occurs, information processing may be incomplete, perhaps because strong negative feelings or dissociation interfere with information processing. This prevents the forging of connections with more adaptive information that is held in other memory networks. For example, a rape survivor may “know” that rapists are responsible for their crimes, but this information does not connect with her feeling that she is to blame for the attack. The memory is then dysfunctionally stored without appropriate associative connections and with many elements still unprocessed. When the individual thinks about the trauma, or when the memory is triggered by similar situations, the person may feel like she is reliving it, or may experience strong emotions and physical sensations. A prime example is the intrusive thoughts, emotional disturbance, and negative self-referencing beliefs of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In EMDR therapy the person thinks of the event briefly as it is paired with sets of eye movements or other forms of stimulation. With the therapist’s assistance, this helps the brain make the appropriate connects and rewire itself in regard to all traumas – that includes every kind of military and civilian experience.
For more information on how EMDR works, plus related sources and videos, read this post on our blog: PTSD Treatment: It’s All About The Eyes.
According to Dr. Francine Shapiro, founder of EMDR Therapy:
Clinicians should be trained to EMDRIA standards. If you look at the back of the book, GETTING PAST YOUR PAST, (Appendix B) you’ll see the questions that I recommend people ask prospective clinicians. It’s important to find a clinician who works with survivors, uses the techniques I teach in the book and appropriately prepares the client. Accessing the memories can cause a certain level of disturbance. But the client should be prepared with the techniques to handle it. Also, an initial screening for dissociative disorders is important to see if additional preparation is needed before processing is begun.
Survivors should also have a good relationship and honest communication with the clinician. If they are having a rough time then the clinician can see them on consecutive days (or morning and afternoon) to finish processing the memory that is disturbing. Once the memory is processed it’s no longer disturbing. It’s not necessary to wait a week between treatment.If the memories remain unprocessed they poison life. So I’d advise the survivors to find an EMDR therapist who has been fully trained by a program accredited by EMDRIA who works according to the book. They will then have the techniques needed to handle any disturbance that arises.
Photo: Darrow Inc.
- PTSD Treatment: Alternative Therapy Options
- PTSD Treatment: Traditional Therapy Options
- PTSD and Talk Therapy
- PTSD and Cognitive Behavior Therapy
- PTSD and EMDR Therapy
- PTSD and Exposure Therapy
- PTSD and Energy Processing Therapy
- PTSD and Hypnosis
- PTSD and Neuro-Linguistic Programming
- PTSD and Self-Empowered Therapy
- PTSD and Group Therapy
- Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises