Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR is a comprehensive psychotherapy approach which has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR has been shown to accelerate the treatment of a wide range of clinical issues. It Incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches such as: psychodynamic, client-centered, cognitive, cognitive behavior, experiential, somatic body therapies.
Through the use of bilateral stimulation (eye movement side to side or tappers buzzing left and right), which activates the client’s own healing mechanism. EMDR stimulates the innate information processing system in the brain, allowing the brain to record the event in a more adaptive manner.
Normally a new experience occurs and the brain turns on the information processing system to sort through the information for what is useful. It takes this information and links it to appropriate emotional states already stored in the brain. It links the new information with similar information already in the memory. In that way, this new information becomes available for use in the future and we create a knowledge base of perceptions, attitudes, emotions sensations and action.
Trauma stops this information processing system and the traumatic event gets locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts and feelings. This becomes the basis for discomfort and negative emotions (symptoms, fear, helplessness). When triggers (similar part of the original event) occur, emotions connected with the old experience are re-experienced over and over. EMDR turns on the information processing system to allow your brain to process the experience. Normal information processing is resumed following a successful EMDR session.
After EMDR, the person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. The memory of what happened is still present, but it has less of an emotional/psychological effect. Many types of therapy aim for similar goals, however, EMDR appears to mimic what occurs naturally during a dream or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way. During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of distress by the event.
EMDR is used for all age groups. EMDR can treat a multitude of issues including: personality disorders, panic attacks, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, phobias, pain disorders, eating disorders, performance anxiety, stress reduction, addictions, sexual and/or physical abuse, body dysmorphic disorders, and relational issues.
EMDR may be used with young children by incorporating it with play therapy. Play Therapy is a therapeutic approach which provides an opportunity for children to ‘play out’ feelings and problems, using toys to symbolically represent their inner and outer worlds, since play is a child’s natural language.
For Individuals who have Experienced Non-Secure Attachment and Developmental Trauma
Attachment-Focused EMDR Integrates the latest in attachment theory and research into the use of EMDR. An attachment is a reciprocal, enduring, emotional and physical affiliation between a child and a caregiver. It is the base from which children explore their physical and social environments and form their concepts of self, others and the world.* Both emotions and cognitions are strongly associated with attachment. As infants and children, we depend on our attachment figure to regulate our emotions. For example, When an infant feels distress, being close to its caretaker becomes the means to reducing that stress. Attachment determines how and what we think about ourselves and the world. For example, Am I the kind of person people will respond to? Are others likely to respond to my needs? Is the world a safe place? Our earliest relationships determine all others.
*James, B. (1994) Handbook for Treatment of Attachment-Trauma Problems in Children, The Free Press, N.Y.
A great deal has been written about trauma and neglect and the damage they do to the developing brain and attachment. Utilizing the work of Laurel Parnell, leader and innovator in the field of eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), Attachment-Focused EMDR connects the science of early attachment relationships and the practice of healing within an EMDR framework to heal clients with relational trauma and attachment deficits.
Our early relationships shape the way the mind and brain develop from our young years into our adult lives. Our relationships with caregivers stimulate neural pathways in our brain that stay throughout our lives, shaping our thoughts, emotions, memories, and behaviors. If we are lucky and have secure attachment experiences in which we feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure (the “four S’s of attachment” that serve as the foundation for a healthy mind) then these relational experiences organize the brain in a secure manner. When attachment is not secure the brain is wired for the chaotic environment in which it is developing.
EMDR is a powerful method for initiating integration an adaptive processing of memories, emotions, self-beliefs and somatic experiences, for individuals who have experienced non-secure attachment and developmental trauma.