EMDR Therapy: The Body That Heals Itself

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What is EMDR Therapy?

But first, a quick word on what EMDR Therapy is not- EMDR Therapy is not hypnosis. And it’s definitely not a quick and easy fix. There is no quick and easy fix for most of the suffering experienced in the world.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Therapy is a somatic-based modality of psychotherapy, an evidence-based protocol which has been developed and refined by leading clinicians and researchers in the mental health field around the world.

Some experiences are too stressful for us to process adeduately so that we have a narrative description of a beginning, middle, and most importantly, an end to the experience. This results in an unmetabolized or incomplete processing of the experience. EMDR Therapy is a way to restart memory processing and complete it. Once completed, we have the experience of the event being passed, a sense that it is over. And we have a return to a felt sense of safety.

 During an EMDR Therapy session, we intentionally split our attention between 1) a memory, fear, phobia, or experience and 2) our what it is like to give our attention to that memory, fear, phobia, or experience. We notice sensations, images, thoughts, and emotions. Observing ourselves  noticing the experience of having this memory etc. helps us to differentiate between past and present. We are recalling a past event, not living or reliving it in the present.  Simultaneously, we administer bilateral movements (eye movements, taps, tones, vibrations) which have been shown to help calm or soothe and activate the brain and body’s innate ability to resolve unfinished processing of a traumatic memory, fear, phobia, or experience. Both the dual attention and bilateral stimulation help to keep our Prefrontal Cortex online so that our brains can recall the experience without getting overwhelmed and process the event as something that has already happened, something that is now over. The brain gains a new understanding of the memory, event, fear, phobia, or experience and this is felt in the body. The basic principle is not to re-experience the trauma, but to reorganize thoughts, feelings, and experiences inside the brain and body so that the nervous system recognizes the event as something that is in the past and completed.

Initially thought to be useful only for a select set of symptoms of very specific traumas, EMDR Therapy is now a proven effective treatment for a variety of traumatic symptoms such as phobias and fears, grief, anxiety, panic attacks and disorder, depression, addiction, and chronic pain. (This list is not exhaustive.) EMDR Therapy is a method used to help clients process a disruption in the nervous system that disturbs the way they experience themselves and the world around them.

Based on in-depth, on-going studies, researchers have discovered that 1) the dual attention to the experience being processed and the present moment and 2) the bilateral stimulation allows the brain to respond in an adaptive way which was not previously possible for the brain to manage due to stress. This response creates the neurophysiological changes needed to resolve many symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress and Complex Post Traumatic Stress/ Developmental Trauma.

For more information on EMDR Therapy or to see the research, please click here.

To make an EMDR appointment with me or if you have questions, please call me at (415) 794-5243 or email me at natalie@nataliemillstherapy.com.

I am a licensed mental health professional located at 870 Market St., Ste. 1055 San Francisco, CA 94102, and virtually in Portland, OR. Email: natalie@nataliemillstherapy.com