When you scrape your knee, you clean the wound and maybe add ointments and bandages to help it heal.
But, what if that wound appeared to be healed on the surface, but underneath it was still painful and caused discomfort?
Could the problem be what you can’t see? Perhaps some leftover debris, irritating the wound further despite your efforts on the surface?
Traumatic memories can work in the same manner. When we come to therapy seeking help for anxiety, depression, addiction, or other issues, we are asking for a way to heal a painful wound without knowing where the source of the problem actually lies.
Many therapists turn to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy) as an effective treatment plan for their clients.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR Therapy has become widely accepted and practiced by mental health professionals worldwide.
Healing from the source is the goal of EMDR Therapy. With that in mind, the treatment utilizes an eight-step process to reorient cognitive attachments of trauma to more positive and empowering ones.
A summary of these steps includes:
1. History and Treatment Planning
Clients begin with an intake process that identifies their history of trauma. From that, the therapist creates an individualized treatment plan.
Typically, the following sessions will work in preparing the patient emotionally for the reprocessing and desensitization process.
During the assessment step, the therapist works with the patient to identify traumatic memories and reconstruct the scene. The therapist then asks the patient to identify negative self-beliefs associated with that scene and what positive self-beliefs they would want to have associated with that memory.
Next, in desensitization, the therapist uses rapid eye movement or other bi-lateral stimulation method to measure subjective disturbance around the memory, while the patient walks through the traumatic experience. The goal is to lower subjective disturbance for the client.
Installation is a step in which the therapist introduces positive associations and beliefs of self-worth to the patient. These beliefs replace the negative associations previously held.
6. Body Scan
The therapist will ask the patient to notice where, physically, they feel any leftover tension in their body. This is because EMDR Therapy suggests that we hold residual trauma in our physical body.
To ensure the patient leaves the session feeling better than when they arrived, the therapist walks the patient back to a calm state, using relaxation techniques. This step is vital for patients who did not fully resolve the traumatic memory during the session.
At the beginning of each new session, the therapist will check in on the results of the previous treatment and adjust the treatment for the session, if needed.
Is EMDR Right for You?
EMDR is a proven treatment option for several conditions such as post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, depression, anxiety, and other conditions. Specifically, EMDR Therapy provides you with tools and positive thinking to gain power over your traumatic memories.
Some of these tools include:
EMDR Therapy helps us to understand the source of our struggles
Sometimes, we can feel as though we are maneuvering through life with blinders on. Untreated trauma keeps us from seeing the entire picture. EMDR asks clients to navigate back to the source, or negative belief that started it all. This process helps remove the blinders so that we can better understand where our behavior patterns come from.
EMDR Therapy aids us to form healthier associations
It works to reorient our way of thinking and processing negative events from our past. Often, over time, these events have produced self-destructive beliefs. During treatment, patients gain healthier attachments to painful, traumatic memories that can boost their sense of worth and positive behavior.
EMDR Therapy provides a foundation to build upon
Reassociating trauma with positive attachments often brings with it a steady set of core beliefs that you can take with you for the rest of your life’s journey. These beliefs help you to feel grounded and prevent you from once again taking part in negative self-beliefs and unhealthy behavior patterns.
Talk with your provider to see if EMDR is right for you. With patience and consistency, EMDR Therapy can be the treatment plan to finally heal your wounds and end your daily struggle.
Roy Faget, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, is an EMDR-trained therapist at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who works with clients to help heal traumatic memories. To schedule an appointment with Roy, contact him at (512) 270-4883, ext. 109, or request him on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.