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This week our blog is written by Melanie Vallee, MA, LMHCA, CDPT.
Over the years, I have referred patients for counseling for many issues. There are many styles and types of counseling and one type is called Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR ). I have not fully understood how the process works but have had such dramatic results reported by my patients that I have always encouraged them to use this technique. EMDR is a real specialty and I have found it difficult to find therapists with advanced training in this system. I’m thrilled to have Melanie, an expert in the technique, provide a description of EMDR and it’s applications.
What Is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a protocol that is used to heal painful and/or traumatic experiences. It allows the nervous system to reprocess negative experiences from implicit memory; which are stored in the nervous system, to explicit/narrative memory. Transferring the memory from implicit to explicit allows the memory to take on a more adaptive form. It is hypothesized that the EMDR process simulates what happens during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when we dream. It seems to relax the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the traumatic event to spontaneously heal on it’s own. The goal of EMDR treatment is to rapidly metabolize the dysfunctional residue from the past and transform it into something useful, and adaptive. Essentially, with EMDR the dysfunctional information undergoes a spontaneous change in form and meaning, incorporating insights and affect that are enhancing rather than self-denigrating to the client. There are eight phases to the EMDR process, which begin with the clients presenting issues, an in depth history, and a screening to ensure that EMDR is appropriate. Then, the client discovers what negative cognition underlies their presenting issue. Next, the therapist will use a bilateral stimulation technique that is the most comfortable for the client. The idea is to assist the body in its natural healing process by transferring information from the right brain to the left repeatedly to allow the information to fully integrate with the rest of the neural networks. Next, the therapist will work to reduce negatively charged triggers. Finally, the client and the therapist create a future template, which is how the client would like to respond to possible trigger situations in the future.
How Can EMDR Help?
Painful experiences from childhood and later in life as well as traumatic events seem to get locked into the nervous system with the original images, sounds, thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, self-perceptions, etc. Frequently, we do not remember consciously exactly what happened, especially when painful experiences occurred at a young age. However, these locked-in experiences stored in the brain get triggered in the “here and now”, especially when “reminders” or occur. Reminders are current experiences, which are similar to the earlier experiences and “trigger” part of the stored information. This triggering can create a great deal of internal discomfort, which seems to come out of “nowhere” and is difficult to control; similar to a rouge wave. Rouge waves are also referred to as freak waves, monster waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves. This is how triggers often feel in our nervous system when they strike. Some people may experience a great deal of inner tension, physical pain, painful memories, low self-esteem/unworthiness, and negative thoughts. Our way of functioning in the world, especially our self-worth, how we relate to others, and how we react to different situations is related to such “locked-in” material. What EMDR has shown us over the past years is that even ubiquitous events, such as childhood humiliations and disappointments, can leave comparable lasting negative effects. EMDR helps with all of theses situations allowing the natural healing processes of the body to heal the nervous system and allow the memory to be stored in the more adaptive part of the brain, which allows individuals to experience inner peace, competence, safety, acceptance, confidence, love, and connection.Melanie Vallee, MA, LMHCA, CDPT Center for Couples and Family Healing 11417- 124th Ave NE, Suite 204 Kirkland, Washington 98033 (425) 889-0832 Ext. 4 (425) 736-7911 Cell