Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Jon Schoonmaker, LPC, is a Certified Clinical Trauma Professoinal with the International Association of Trauma Professionals (www.traumaprofessional.net) and a specialist trained in using EMDR to address trauma. In addition to EMDR, Jon uses Cognitive Behavioral interventions, and Brain Spotting to resolve symptoms associated with trauma.
The following description of EMDR is borrowed from Linda Curran’s training materials.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), is a late-stage, trauma resolution method. EMDR is a form of Alternating Bilateral Stimulation. During EMDR, the Traumatic Memory Network is activated and non-invasive alternating stimulation of the brain’s right and left hemispheres is introduced.
Developed in the late 1980′s, EMDR currently has more scientific research as a treatment for trauma than any other non-pharmaceutical intervention. Based on empirical evidence as well as thousands of client and clinician testimonials, EMDR has proven an efficacious and rapid method of reprocessing traumatic material.
In 2004 the American Psychiatric Association determined that EMDR is an effective treatment of trauma. And, in 2010 the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense placed EMDR in the “A” category as “strongly recommended” for the treatment of trauma. In addition, no less than 24 randomized controlled (and 12 nonrandomized) studies have been conducted on EMDR demonstrating its effectiveness in the treatment of trauma.
EMDR appears to assist in the processing of traumatic information, resulting in enhanced integration – and a more adaptive perspective of the traumatic material.
Theoretically, Alternating Bilateral Stimulation (EMDR) accomplishes three therapeutic objectives:
1) EMDR seems to lift the veil that keeps the conscious and unconscious parts of our minds separate from each other. This process enables our conscious mind to receive and benefit from the wisdom housed in our unconscious.
2) EMDR seems to greatly improve the communication between the rational parts of our brain (the Neo-Cortex), and the emotional parts of our brain (the Limbic System). New neural networks that facilitate communication between these two parts of the brain are formed, and as a result new information, awareness, and wisdom travel back and forth to each other. This new information, awareness, and wisdom can serve to soften the memory, affect, and emotional charge associated with old traumatic events that remain housed in our limbic system.
3) EMDR facilitates the movement of energy throughout our bodies. Our bodies house the memories, feelings, and sensations associated with old traumatic events that were lived through. When we pay close attention to the movement of energy in our bodies, it begins to shift, and the feelings and sensations associated with it lose their emotional charge.
In short, EMDR is about convincing the mind and body that the traumatic event is, indeed over. EMDR helps to put the past in the past, where it belongs, instead of staying stuck in it (feeling like it is happened all over again in the present-with the same thoughts, emotions and body sensations- that accompanied the event in the past).
EMDR is accomplished in four stages:
1. Establishment of Safety-Safety must be established within the therapeutic relationship and safety within each individual EMDR session. During each EMDR session, your therapist will begin by activating your own internal resources. He will guide you in a multisensory imagery exercise designed to activate images, emotions and body sensations of safety, protection, nurture and comfort. Once these images have been activated, the actual trauma reprocessing will begin. It may take several sessions to establish an adequate level of safety for activating the Trauma Memory Network.
2. Activating the Traumatic Memory Network-The therapist will ask a series of questions regarding the traumatic memory. The purpose of these questions is to activate the entire traumatic memory network.
3. Adding Alternating Bilateral Stimulation-Once the entire traumatic memory is activated, the therapist will add alternating bilateral stimulation using a non-invasive technique.
4. Re-establishment of Safety-regardless of whether the traumatic material was completely processed or not, the session will end at a pre-set time. Before you leave, you will return to a state of being stable, embodied, oriented and calm.
EMDR is not dangerous. However, any type of trauma work that deliberately activates a traumatic memory network requires that both client and clinician are adequately prepared to tolerate the effects of that activation.