EMDR Therapy in Dallas, Texas
Often, when something traumatic happens, it seems to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and so on. Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up. It can be the basis for many discomforts and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness, that we can’t seem to control. These are really the emotions connected with the old experience that are being triggered.
The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the system and allow your brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep when our most intense dreaming occurs: The eye movements appear to be involved during the processing of unconscious material. The important thing to remember is that your own brain will be doing the healing and that you are the one in control. Shapiro, Francine. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, Third Edition (pp. 115-116). Guilford Publications. Kindle Edition.
What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, is a relatively new type of treatment used in individual therapy. Developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro, it was originally intended to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. However, it has since been proven to work for other disorders as well.
EMDR was the first well-established and evidence-based treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD results from exposure to trauma, such as:
PTSD generally causes someone to feel irrationally threatened or unsafe. The following are the most common symptoms, which EMDR has been shown to effectively reduce:
Feelings of shame and guilt
Hypervigilance (sensitive and alert to your surroundings)
What Does EMDR Therapy Like?
EMDR therapy uses something called “dual attention stimuli” to help clients access traumatic memories that they may have been repressing. It lowers the distress that these memories bring on, and helps clients build insight into their experiences.
The dual attention stimuli used in EMDR is a left-and-right movement that the client focuses on. It usually involves rapid eye movements, but not always. Therapists may move their hand back and forth across a client’s field of vision, or use tapping of the shoulders, fingers, or knees. At Therapy With Abby, I use hand motions or ask my clients to tap their fingers or shoulders to create dual attention stimuli. Which method I use depends on whether we’re meeting in-person or virtually, as well as your comfort level.
While focusing on dual attention stimuli, the therapist asks the client to think about their traumatic experience and to pay attention to how they feel in their body. Clients can reveal as much or as little about their trauma as they want. One of the benefits of EMDR is that it doesn’t require clients to relive their trauma or describe it out loud, which can sometimes do more harm than good. The processing is done in brief bursts, separated by discussion with the therapist.
The back-and-forth movements also help to reinforce positive, healthy thoughts. We do this after we process the trauma. EMDR therapy helps clients apply what they’ve learned about their past to stressful current events, as well as expected future ones. This way, clients learn to generalize their coping skills.
EMDR therapy sessions are a bit longer than traditional therapy sessions, lasting between an hour and 90 minutes. A typical course of treatment is between six and 12 sessions.
Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR is one of the most well-studied forms of therapy being used. This is due in part to it being so unique, and also because so many clients report it working so quickly. It’s been found by many studies to quickly and effectively alleviate ease PTSD symptoms, including physical sensations, negative beliefs, and negative feelings.
As mentioned above, EMDR works for more than just treating trauma. It’s also been proven to treat:
EMDR therapy is, essentially, a type of exposure therapy. This means the benefits you get are a result of allowing yourself to be uncomfortable while you learn to cope through it. Exposure therapies are usually effective, but can be very uncomfortable. EMDR is different because you don’t need to talk about your trauma, and you can focus on something else (dual attention stimuli) to keep your memories from becoming overwhelming.
What Are The Risks With EMDR Therapy?
All forms of therapy, especially trauma therapy, can make symptoms worse at the outset. That’s because until now, you’ve probably been repressing your traumatic memories and feelings. While it’s good to process difficult things in session, it’s hard to turn them off” once session is over.
To help with this, EMDR therapists teach skills to help clients compartmentalize, or keep the processing where it belongs: in the therapist’s office. We’ll end each of our sessions by doing a visual to help you put away any disturbing thoughts or memories. Another major component of EMDR is coping skills. We’ll work on finding and practicing skills that help you deal with symptoms when they’re most likely to arise, such as the evening after a session.
Speak With a Dallas EMDR Therapist Today
Though it may sound intimidating at first, EMDR is nothing to be nervous about! Reach out to me if you think EMDR therapy may be a good fit for you. I offer EMDR therapy in Dallas, Texas. A big part of my practice is working with clients to give them greater control over their thoughts and feelings. I would love to talk with you about how we can use EMDR to give you relief, too.