What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (more commonly known as EMDR), is a form of psychotherapy developed in the 1980s by American psychologist Francine Shapiro. While walking in a park, Shapiro made a chance observation that certain eye movements appeared to reduce the negative emotion associated with her own traumatic memories. When she experimented, she found that others also exhibited a similar response to eye movements. After further study and experimentation, EMDR was developed.
Increasingly, EMDR therapy is being used for the treatment of other issues too, including:
- phobias and fears
- low self-esteem
The overall aims of EMDR therapy include the following:
- Reduce re-experiencing trauma memories.
- Help you feel more able to cope with and manage trauma memories without needing to avoid potential triggers.
- Help you feel more able to engage in and enjoy pleasurable activities and relationships.
- Reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, irritation and hypervigilance – allowing you to rest well, address pressure and/or conflict and go about your daily business without feeling fearful and prone to panic.
- Reduce feelings of isolation, hopelessness and depression.
- A boost in self-confidence and self-esteem.
How does EMDR work?
When traumatic events happen, the body’s natural coping mechanisms can be overwhelmed and subsequently, the memory isn’t always processed adequately.
It is like the past experience was of a nature that the brain could not organize and process it and so it remains frozen and still active creating exaggerated responses and hypervigilant reactions. This can happen with large sudden events or continual small ones such as ridicule and criticism in childhood.
EMDR therapy looks to help you properly process these traumatic memories, reducing their impact and helping you develop healthy coping mechanisms. This is done through an eight-phase approach to address the past, present, and future aspects of a stored memory. This involves recalling distressing events while receiving ‘bilateral sensory input’, including side to side eye movements, hand tapping and auditory tones. Part of theory is that it acts in a manner similar to what happens in rapid eye movement while sleeping.
Overall, the idea is that past experiences are not settled and continue to cause distress in the individual. Sometimes it is very obvious but often in a more hidden manner in our day to day lives.
Bilateral stimulation is also used to affirm or implant positive beliefs and cognitions about one’s self. It is also used to help a person with addictions reduce the impact of triggering situations and reinforce positives responses that assist sobriety.
DBT: Dialectical Behavior Therapy
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), developed in late 1980s by Marsha M. Linehan. This modality works towards helping people increase their emotional and cognitive regulation by learning about the triggers that lead to reactive states and helping to assess which coping skills to apply in the sequence of events, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to help avoid undesired reactions. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is now used in a variety of psychological treatments including treatment for addiction and many different types mood disorders including depression and anxiety. Research indicates that Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) might have some effect on patients who present varied symptoms and behaviors associated with spectrum mood disorders, such as individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder and trauma. DBT combines cognitive behavioral techniques for emotion regulation and reality-testing with concepts of distress tolerance, acceptance, and mindful awareness largely derived from Buddhist meditative practice.
CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Guided by empirical research, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on the development of personal coping strategies that target current problems and changing unhelpful patterns in thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Originally, it was designed to treat depression and is now has numerous applications for treatment in counseling.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is “problem-focused” and “action-oriented”, meaning it is used to treat specific problems related to a diagnosed condition and or substance abuse problem (addiction). The counselor’s primary role is to aid the client in finding strategies to address the identified goals and decrease symptoms. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the belief that irrational thoughts and negative behaviors play a role in the development and maintenance of psychological disorders or unwanted behaviors. Symptoms can be reduced by teaching new skills and coping mechanisms to the individual.
Art and Multi Media
Have you ever watched a film, finished a book, absorbed a piece of art or music and thought “that really changed and moved me in this moment if not forever?” There is a reason and it seems that we as people are wired to create and experience these things in our psyche or soul if you will. Often, we are embarrassed of or not sure what to do with this part of ourselves. I believe that if this is nurtured and empowered that we can claim and recapture our beautiful selves that we have somehow been taught to suppress. While it is very necessary and important to address our anxieties, depression and fears in traditional ways, sometimes a person can experience healing in a way that words and techniques can’t reach. I have witnessed a person make sense and heal the wounded part of themselves in interpreting a photo, song or writing gaining wisdom they did not know they had. Are we not all trying to find meaning and beauty while attempting to live our best lives? I have used these mediums for years and am amazed by their power. I have collected many tools to assist this and love helping a person find what has been wanting to be expressed all along.
Meditation, Spirituality and Prayer
As the world of medicine, science, religion and psychology continue to merge and find common ground, the exploration and practice of spiritual genres has become seen as beneficial if not essential to growth, balance and peace. Many of us have negative past experiences or just an unclear concept of what healthy spirituality looks like. Sometimes we just need permission to let go of old ideas and seek ideas and methods that speak to us. There are times when we need help processing through unhelpful and antiquated shame and fears. Together we can explore what seems right and true for you. Sometimes clients just need healthy options to examine and support and how to best utilize and practice the art forms of meditation and prayer that is right for them. My goal if the client so desires is to integrate a self-appreciation and connection to the divine that lives in each of us.
Creative Arts Assistance
There are times when the creative artist needs help finding and releasing ideas and feelings that are needed to create their craft. Artists, song writers and creators of the written word can become blocked or “stuck” if you will. Through various methods and genres, I can help someone to access a deeper sense of meaning and clarity to what is within them to be expressed. Many of the methods described in the Arts and Media services are used to help.
Recovery Coaching for Individuals
Recovery coaching is strength-based support for persons with addictions or in recovery from alcohol, other drugs, codependency, or other addictive behaviors. Recovery coaches enjoy working with persons with active addictions as well as persons already in recovery. A recovery coach can also provide part-time support for people entering recovery who are looking for help navigating early recovery. They spend time helping clients work through potentially challenging events such as: going to work, attending business meetings, special events, family gatherings, etc. while providing encouragement, accountability, insight, and understanding through their own personal experiences of recovery.
A good sober coach is someone who is in recovery themselves; therefore, a sober coach understands what it takes to get sober, sets appropriate and healthy boundaries, helps clients determine realistic goals, assists clients with time management, finds sober activities, and helps clients identify triggers.
Recovery Coaching for Families
Families with loved ones contemplating recovery or who have begun the journey of recovery usually need help navigating this new experience. Understanding the addiction, learning healthy boundaries, finding balance and making sense of what the process looks like is the goal of coaching families. Sometimes we expect ourselves to be able to handle situations that we have never navigated before. Recovery Coaching for the family increases the chances of sobriety for the individual and brings the all involved in a common solution.
The Comprehensive Resource Model
As a clinician I have often encountered clients who can describe their trauma sources with a clear and rational understanding of what is was and how it affected them. They may express insights and even a desire and commitment to forgive and move on. Yet the residual nuances of hypervigilance, self-doubt or anger live on. It has become apparent that traditional talk therapies do not significantly heal trauma in the areas of the brain that hold the memories. Various therapies have evolved over the last decades but as a practitioner I have often felt we were making strides but there were uncharted waters that held more. I as a level 2 EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) trained clinician am excited to have discovered what appears to be the best treatment model I have been exposed to so far. This is the Comprehensive Resource Model (CRM). After becoming trained in this model, I have found increased positive results with clients and an excitement on my part. Basically, this model uses a variety of positive interventions usually introduced independently into one combined model. Let me quote some of the CRM book by its founder Lisa Schwarz:
“The cognitive part of the brain has limited input to the subcortical areas where blocked emotional and defense responses are activated, driven and stored – largely in the brainstem, hypothalamus, thalamus and basal ganglia structures. The upshot is that a client may seem to make significant breakthroughs in understanding their feelings on a rational level by talking with a therapist, but this may make no difference to their post-traumatic symptoms if the midbrain is unable to modulate its activity in response.
In the absence of effective therapy, the traumatic reaction becomes more entrenched over time. Survival terror resulting from attachment disruption and trauma that may have occurred may years earlier engrains the neurobiological templates of fight/flight/freeze and pathological dissociation in the brain. The brain has evolved to put survival first; when terror grips the brainstem, it is natural that survival behaviors are given priority. But the repeated activation of the dynamic imprints in situations that are not a matter of life or death leads to a disconnection from self, other and spirit, and removes the person further and further from the experience of love. Frozen layers of survival terror accumulate in rigid neural loops, limiting our potential to evolve into all they might become.
The only way to heal the impact of the traumatic experience is to ensure that there is ample physiological safety for this survival terror to be stepping into, felt fully, remembered/re-membered and re-oriented to so that is can be transformed.”
The way that EMDR introduces neural reconciliation in the brain is by stimulating the brain back and for whether it be by guided eye movement, tapping the body, audio sound or tactile pulses. CRM incorporates bi-lateral brain stimulation (EMDR), specific breathing techniques, eye position, imagery and a few other resources to give the client a collection of reprocessing techniques all occurring at once while processing and healing deeply lodged trauma. It also requires less intentional recollecting of the traumatic material on the client’s part. The model has brought an exciting and hopeful model to the treatment of trauma.
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