Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a leading evidence-based therapy. Originally developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, this method has evolved and broadened its reach, helping people with other mental health challenges reclaim control over their lives. But what can you expect during an EMDR session? How does it channel the power of the human brain to process troubling memories? Read on to learn more about this transformative therapy.
At its core, EMDR aims to alter how the brain stores and retrieves distressing memories. While many other therapies revolve around understanding the distressing event, EMDR focuses on changing the emotions linked with those memories.
Imagine a troubling memory as a tangled web of emotions, images and sensations. EMDR helps unravel the knots, allowing you to reintegrate the memory without feeling its painful impact.
The EMDR Session: A Walkthrough
Here is a general overview of what you can expect during EMDR.
- History-taking and treatment planning: The therapist will begin by understanding your history, pinpointing specific traumatic incidents to target in the sessions.
- Preparation: Your therapist will ensure you are in a safe, mentally grounded state of mind before beginning your session, perhaps teaching you relaxation techniques if you are tense or anxious.
- Assessment: Your therapist will ask you to recall the specific traumatic memory and estimate your current distress level.
- Desensitization: At this stage, your therapist will direct your eye movements while you continue focusing on the traumatic memory and the associated negative belief. These rapid side-to-side eye movements mirror the patterns observed during the REM sleep cycle – a phase when your brain actively processes experiences. By mimicking this process while awake, you can process a high volume of information, fostering healing from psychological distress.
- Installation: The therapist will ask you to replace negative beliefs tied to the traumatic memory with positivity – for instance, swapping “I am powerless” with “I am in control.” Over several sessions, EMDR can help reframe your response to distressing thoughts or memories, lessening their emotional impact.
- Closure: This phase helps you return to equilibrium, possibly with techniques learned during the preparation phase.
- Reevaluation: In future sessions, your therapist will check to see if you have noticed shifts in your beliefs or cognitive responses.
Benefits for Trauma Survivors
For many trauma survivors, intrusive thoughts and flashbacks can be relentless triggers, disrupting your quality of life and making you feel unsafe. EMDR aids in:
- Reducing your memories’ distressing power
- Equipping you with coping mechanisms and resilience
- Enhancing feelings of safety, control and empowerment
How an EMDR-Trained Therapist Can Change Your Life
An EMDR-trained therapist possesses a unique set of tools. With their guidance:
- Your brain can process and store traumatic memories that once controlled aspects of your daily life.
- You can rediscover a sense of self, unburdened by past traumas.
- Weakening the paralyzing power of traumatic events allows for mental growth and healing.
While the idea of revisiting traumatic memories might seem daunting, it can be a key to unlocking better mental health with the appropriate therapeutic approach. EMDR presents a way forward – a path that turns painful memories into milestones of resilience and strength. If you struggle to let go of the burden of traumatic events, consider exploring the transformative world of EMDR with a trained professional.
Visualize a Brighter Future
Do you need a psychotherapy treatment program to help you overcome co-occurring mental health problems and addiction? At Pillars Recovery, we make individual counseling an essential part of recovery for our clients. That’s why we provide several types of evidence-based psychotherapy to foster long-term sobriety at our Laguna Beach and Costa Mesa locations. Contact us today to join our family and build the life you deserve.