EMDR Therapy: An Overview
We are so excited to share this guest blog by Joshua Nave LLMSW and Paul Krauss MA LPC of Health for Life GR. We get asked frequently about EMDR Therapy, so read below to find out what it is and how it works!
This blog is a discussion of the basics of what Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is, its origins, and how it can help people. Many people have heard about EMDR in one fashion or another, and with over 2 million people reporting healing from its use (Trauma Center, 2007), it’s no wonder that more and more people are asking “Just what is EMDR?” So let’s begin with trying to answer just that: what is EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy is a physiological psychotherapy technique that aims at unlocking the body’s natural ability to process information and heal from past trauma and current distress (EMDRIA, 2019). EMDR therapy seeks to access the process that the human brain uses during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) cycle of sleep to reduce the disturbance caused by memories, events, and thoughts that have become stuck or intrusively repeated in a person’s mind and/or behavior and personality. EMDR therapy is an advanced type of empirically-validated therapy that can be utilized by Masters-Level Counselors with specific advanced training (post-graduate school). Hundreds of studies have confirmed that when human beings are enduring great duress or stress, the brain becomes incapable of processing information as it normally does. While the brain may change its normal processing abilities to protect the person during a stressful situation–there are often negative side effects. Information that is not processed in a normal manner, due to a stressful or traumatic event can then become “locked” within the mind, and as the brain attempts to process that event, an individual may experience a repetition of the very stress, pain, thoughts, and other body sensations that they experienced during the original event(s).
EMDR therapy works on multiple levels of the brain, both incorporating talk therapy and elements of the rational brain, along with the deeper memory systems as well as the physical memory to allow an individual to access those “locked” stressful/traumatic events in a therapeutic environment– so that the effect on the brain is essentially “reprocessing” the stressful or traumatic event in an adaptive way that allows resolution of suffering. As the brain processes the event, individuals become able to embody with healthy and adaptive beliefs about themselves both from the past and during the current time, which can build long-term resiliency in an individual. In addition, EMDR therapy works to clear the body of disturbing physical sensations associated with the event, or what is sometimes called “the felt sense.” To this day, scientists and medical professionals have been unable to ascertain the exact mechanism of action that helps to change brain and body’s response to triggers and associated negative stimuli (all of the elements that make EMDR therapy effective), nevertheless study after study demonstrates its tremendous positive effect on people, and often shows improved outcomes over such therapies as CBT and traditional talk therapy. Counselors who utilize EMDR therapy often theorize that it is the use of rapid eye movement or other forms of bilateral stimulation (BLS) during the treatment, combined with the cognitive elements of counseling, which ultimately causes the stress reduction and adaptive processing to occur.
Francine Shapiro originally theorized the foundations of EMDR therapy in 1987 when she discovered that rapid eye movement could have a beneficial effect on reducing the effects of stress and the effects of traumatic memories (EMDR Institutive, 2019). Dr. Shapiro later went on to perform clinical trials to test her theories, and today, EMDR Therapy is a certified evidence-based approach to recovering from traumatic experiences. In addition, EMDR Therapy has been reported to be effective with anxiety, depression, panic disorders, addictions, body dysmorphic conditions, phobias, pain disorders, and more (Legg, 2017). Many people have sought EMDR Therapy as a method of treatment for these conditions instead of the traditional route of medication first.
Is EMDR Therapy right for you? If you suffer from repeating intrusive memories, feelings, body sensations, or thoughts of past disturbing events, or in fact, any of the symptoms previously discussed, then EMDR Therapy could assist you in your healing. If you are interested in receiving a different method of healing where you are in control of having the healthier life you’ve always wanted, then I encourage you to contact a licensed therapist who’s undergone EMDRIA approved training in providing EMDR Therapy services.
EMDR Therapy is an effective psychotherapy method when its methodology is followed by a licensed counselor. It is important to have the right fit for you, so when investigating, make sure you feel aligned with your therapist and that they are experienced and knowledgeable and have valid EMDR therapy training. If you’re interested in a free 15-minute consultation to either learn more about EMDR or to set up an appointment, please visit our website at healthforlifegr.com. At Health for Life Grand Rapids, we are now proud to have a counseling wing called The Trauma Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. You can also give us a call at 616-200-4433.
About the Authors:
Paul Krauss MA LPC is the Clinical Director of Health for Life Grand Rapids, home of The Trauma-Informed Counseling Center of Grand Rapids. Paul is also a Private Practice Psychotherapist, host of the Intentional Clinician podcast, Behavioral Health Consultant, Clinical Trainer, and Counseling Supervisor. Paul is the creator of the National Violence Prevention Hotline (in progress) as well as the Intentional Clinician Training Program for Counselors.
Joshua Nave MA LLMSW
“I became a social worker and ultimately a therapist to assist in God’s mission to bring healing to the hurt. Through my years of work in the field of trauma, behavioral health, and the broader social work field, I discovered that many of us are held back from reaching true healing by the traumas and lessons imparted on us in our early childhood. It has thus been my passion over the past several years to provide early childhood intervention to families struggling when their young children, as well as assisting adults in overcoming the barriers to healthy living through trauma-informed therapies. I have used my training in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Play Therapy, and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) to assist my clients in achieving a more complete and healthy life. It is my belief that all individuals have not only intrinsic value, but also the natural capacity for healing and change.
As a therapist, I provide my clients with a truly “client-driven experience.” I am skilled at partnering with you to identify the changes that you wish to make in your family’s life, or even your individual life, and developing a plan to achieve success. I look forward to partnering with you on reaching your potential through natural healing!”