Five Benefits of EMDR
Here is a great article discussing several different uses for EMDR, other than PTSD. EMDR therapy stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy.” Since it was invented in the late 1980’s by psychologist named Francine Shapiro it has gained a lot of attention and has been recommended by organizations such as World Health Organization, American Psychiatric Association, the Departments of Defense and of Veterans Affairs, and The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
Although EMDR was originally designed to treat PTSD, as more studies are coming out about EMDR the list of benefits keep growing. While EMDR helps reduce anxiety and depression, it also works to eliminate compulsive behaviors such as eating, shopping, gambling, internet addiction, sex addiction, and substance abuse.
How Does it Work?
EMDR works by connecting the left and right hemisphere of the brain, putting you into a REM-like state which is similar to dreaming. In my practice, I use a machine with hand buzzers, lights, and headphones that beep, so that the patient can receive up to three modes of bilateral stimulation. The patient may focus on a disturbing thought while looking back and forth at lights, hearing beeps, and feeling the buzzers in their hands. At first, the process will usually stimulate the distress around an upsetting event, or the craving for an addictive substance or experience.
It’s Over, You’re Safe Now
When we begin bilateral stimulation, the left brain tells the right brain: “It’s over, you’re safe now.” This is important because when trauma is experienced, the left brain shuts down and the part of your brain that tells you when someone is over turns off and the memory gets stuck in the body. EMDR reconnects the left and right hemispheres of the brain, helping the healing process.
This process also connects your mind to what’s called Adaptive Information which includes thoughts like:
- you’re not a child any longer
- you’re not in the car accident
- you’re not in that relationship any longer
- you don’t need this substance
- you’re not actually hungry
- you don’t need this behavior to feel good: you have lots of good things in your life
- you’re a good loving person
During EMDR, the patient directs their mind to a problem and then is instructed to “let go” while experiencing the bilateral stimulation. The idea is allow your mind to settle so thoughts and freely flow through, almost like passing through a funnel or letting a wave wash over you. Some people experience it as a slide show or movie. Others feel mainly body sensations. It can alternate between feeling distressing and calming as the body releases the distress. Think of it like your brain going through it’s files, deleting what’s not needing, and cleaning things up. As the process continues, the patient tends to feel calmer and often insights often begin to pop up simultaneously.
This is when someone might say:
- I am a good person
- I don’t need him/her any more
- I have lots of support in my life
- The craving is gone
It’s been found that the eye movements used in EMDR help to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is what causes the calming response.
If you’ve tried therapy and haven’t gotten the results you wanted, EMDR could be the answer. I’ve found that EMDR is much more effective than traditional therapy in a fraction of the time.
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