Tuesday, August 17, 2010

EMDR Therapy - Very Effective For Trauma

EMDR?  What is that?
A very common response when I mention the use of this therapy in situations where my clients have been victims of abuse, rape or assault.  EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is an extremely effective therapy which allows our emotional process to continue from where it has been stuck.  It was discovered and developed by Francine Shapiro who continues to facilitate the study of and effects of EMDR on trauma survivors.
When human beings have been through situations that are traumatic for them, those memories often get stuck along with the traumatic emotions that were generated along with them.  Why? Because emotions and memories are chemical.  When chemicals are not resolved within the body, sensations or smells, sights or sounds can trigger them again and the person relives those experiences over and over.  This is what Post Traumatic Stress is.  The condition is best seen in combat veterans who have been in life and death situations, over stimulated by sound in fearful circumstances, visually stimulated by horrific images that accompany combat situations.
One way our bodies process these feelings and memories is through rapid eye movement.  Rapid eye movement happens at night in REM sleep....when we reach REM sleep we dream.  It is not uncommon to have nightmares, vivid dreams or sensations after a traumatic incident.  In all reality, that is a good sign; however it can be uncomfortable and/or unpleasant.  I say it is a good sign because it is a sign that the traumatic incident is being processed, which is what we want to have happen.  The optic nerve is connected to the brain in such a way that the rapid movement of the eyes in a side to side (bi-lateral) motion facilitates the emotional process.  EMDR facilitates that same motion, allowing trauma that has become stuck and unresolved, to be processed.  The goal is not to erase the memory, but simply put, to take the emotional charge off the memory so that it simply takes the place of being another memory in our memory banks.  Additionally, EMDR is not guided imagery or hypnosis.  It facilitates our God given emotional resolution processes so that we can heal and move on with our lives.
It has only been in recent times where the use of EMDR has been expanded beyond the combat veteran scenario.  Those who work in the mental health field see traumatized individuals every day who have been in abusive relationships, car accidents, sudden huge losses or assault situations and recognize that these individuals also suffer from PTSD or a form of it.   EMDR is very helpful in facilitating the healing process and helping victims of every sort of trauma move forward.  EMDR also is beneficial for individuals who just find themselves stuck; stuck in their careers, stuck in their situations or not seeming to be able to move past certain behaviors or responses as well as the fears and beliefs that accompany them.
Speaking of fear, it might be helpful to note that there are only four basic fears; the fear of rejection, the fear of abandonment, the fear of death and the fear of dying.  All of our negative emotional responses have one or more of these four fears at the root.  It helps to be able to boil down our emotional reactions to identify which of these fears we are dealing with and then begin to confront the fear, recognize the lies we have believed and ask the Lord to help us see what the truth is.  These types of fears can be debilitating, however that is not to say that all fear is bad.  A feeling of fear walking down an urban street at 1am might be worth paying attention to as a means of discernment to get out of that situation quickly.
In closing, I want to communicate to my readers that emotions are neither good or bad, they are amoral.  Emotions are messengers of what is happening inside and we either choose to listen to them and take steps to correct the issues at hand, or we kill the messenger and refuse to listen.  Emotions can be our friend or if denied, they go on to cause difficulties in our lives in the form of creating self defense mechanisms or as a last resort, the body begins to break down in ways that facilitate disease.  Emotions never die, whether we choose to feel them or not.
If you have been the victim of a traumatic experience, I would encourage you to find a counselor who is well trained in EMDR and talk to them about whether this type of therapy would be beneficial for you.


Anonymous said...

What about fear of a person, like an abusive spouse, then? When I was too scared to go into my house when my husband had been unpredictable with rage, I called a mature friend who said I had nothing to fear because he couldn't do anything (he was on bail). I summoned all my courage and entered anyway. Nothing happened, but from then on, I decided not to let fear stop me, but ended up injuring myself psychologically by entering into fruitless hostile conversations, in an attempt to reasonably resolve conflict. Mutual friends kept telling me not to be afraid of his anger, but was that fear a reasonable one or not?

Gr8mochas said...

Fear of someone who can do you physical or psychological harm is a reasonable response. Once the situation is over, if the fear persists, if you continue to relive the situation over and over and it blocks your ability to move forward with your life, that is the time to seek abuse and/or trauma counseling.

Often, friends and loved ones will tell us not to be afraid so that we have the courage to stand up to the abusers....Mark Twain said, Courage is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it.

The sign of a courageous person, then, is someone who feels fear, recognizes fear and still goes on to do what he or she believes is right.