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When Is It Time To Consider EMDR?

The field of psychotherapy has advanced a great deal in the past  20 years. Since Freudian time, therapy was commonly referred to as “talk therapy”. Over the years, however, many different forms of therapy have evolved including psychoanalysis and psychodynamic therapy, and later, cognitive behavioral therapy and supportive therapy.

Most of these therapies consisted of a patient doing the talking and therapist mostly listening whiles interjecting every so often, and in the case of psychoanalysis – making interpretations. In other therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the therapist was more active and directive with their patients.

Over the past 20 years, other types of therapies been developed which include EMDR, Somatic Experiences (SE), Sensory Motor Integration, and many others. What makes these therapies different from the ones previously mentioned is that the principles of these therapies are grounded in developing an understanding of the brain and the nervous systems, as well as making a connection between mind and body.

For this reason, these therapies are sometimes referred to as “mind-body therapies”.

EMDR, in particular, is a therapy based on an assumption that all traumatic events get stored in a fragmented form in both the brain and nervous system. At the time of the incident, our minds are capable of assimilating only certain parts of the incident usually in an incomplete form.

Some parts of traumatic events are stored in the right hemisphere of the mind while others are stored in the left. During EMDR treatment both hemispheres are stimulated in order to bring all the pieces together to create a coherent and complete experience and understanding of the event. In subsequent sets of stimulation, the memories of the event lose their emotional charge and become neutral rather than dormant in our system which allows them to be triggered again and again.

Many patients seek EMDR treatment after being in traditional therapies for many years while still experiencing the same triggers and reactions to events. These triggers are occurring because in some way they are reminding the patient of the original traumatic incident.

For example, a young female patient who was assaulted by a man in a blue jacket at age 10, may become panicked every time she sees a man in a blue jacket. However, she did not know why this was triggering panic until she received EMDR treatments which targeted her seeing man wearing a blue jacket. From there, a memory rose up connecting the two pieces. After this was discovered, treatment was able to ensure that men wearing blue jackets were no longer a trigger for her.

While EMDR therapy is not for everyone it is worth exploring as it can often facilitate relief from troubling symptoms.