Why EMDR Is So Effective

Trauma Therapy -- Why EMDR is So Effective

When you think about childhood, you want to believe in what the happy flashbacks of popular movies promise:  the scene set in a loving, secure home, with children’s joyous play providing the background noise.

Perhaps you know firsthand—painfully—that the setting of your childhood wasn’t carefully scouted and perfected.  The adults in your life may have done the best they could, the best they knew, but still - you experienced more than you knew how to cope with.

If you experienced trauma as a child, or you’re feeling helpless and fearful as you carry your child through a trauma now, it’s not just that an upsetting event left an ugly smudge on a delicate painting—it’s that you relive them again and again as time passes.  It can seem as though there’s a tape being forever replayed in your brain.

Childhood trauma can still be deeply affecting you as an adult, changing the way you relate to others and see yourself.  It can inhibit your growth.  It can cause anxiety, irritability, poor sleep, moodiness and anger, and depression. Left unattended, traumatic memories become a glass house from which you watch disconnected as the world moves without you.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy designed to break down the walls of that isolating glass house when it’s too hard and too painful to get out on your own. By alleviating distress born from painful memories, EMDR  therapy for childhood trauma is incredibly healing.

How effective is EMDR as a trauma therapy?

EMDR therapy is very effective. For some people who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, flashbacks and nightmares have stopped after only one or two EMDR therapy sessions. EMDR helps people reprocess old, traumatic memories. This can greatly improve not only the quality of their current life, but can decrease their anxiety and improve their relationships.  EMDR is known to help people break free from their trauma in shorter time frames than other types of therapy.

 To understand why EMDR can be so helpful in changing your relationship with a disturbing past, it’s important to ask why traumatic events or relationships in childhood are so deeply damaging.   Did you ever watch a scary movie as a kid and lie in bed terrified that the villain was waiting outside your window? Maybe it seems silly now. After all, it was just a movie. Now you can reject the fear by rejecting the villain as unrealistic or as an anomaly—but what if your vision of reality was still in the early stages of formation? You didn’t yet have the tools to dismiss your fear.

So when something happens to make a child feel afraid, ashamed, or alone, the emotional distress of that memory frames the way a child processes information and learns new things.  It can become the lens that the child experiences the world.

Even if you’re cognitively able to accept or move past a trauma, it can still stick like a weed in the bricks that make up the foundation of your emotional world. EMDR  therapy rests on the idea that, like your body during a physical illness, your mind wants to move forward. Sometimes to move forward, there’s a blockage that needs to be weeded out before your mind and body can get to work.

In EMDR therapy, you and your therapist select memories that are blocking your path. As you grasp the memory, the therapist asks you to follow an object with your eyes or direct your attention to another external stimulus (known as bilateral brain stimulation). With the help of these sensory stimuli, you’re both experiencing the painful thought and observing it. Ultimately, the therapy changes your relationship with the thought you’re holding by creating new associations.

Your brain moves extremely rapidly with the bilateral stimulation. You’re constantly processing and learning new things; it often takes a long time to express those changes or thoughts to someone else. EMDR therapy works quickly by creating changes on a fundamental, cognitive level—rather than sorting through difficult emotions and coming to careful conclusions, you’re rapidly adapting to new information.

You build new connections, energize the production of new synapses, and leave painful memories where they originated—in the past.  Trauma triggers are also addressed in the therapy.  For example, a certain sight, scent, or situation may have historically been a dreadful reminder for a person.  These triggers can be devastating for people to endure. After the EMDR therapy, people can become free of these triggers.  People who have gone through EMDR therapy are often amazed at the powerful experience of it and the growth that occurs.  They often find they are able to now think about the painful memory and feel detached from it— as if they are seeing it from afar.  It no longer has the acute, painful effect it once did.  These people are now free to put their energy into other life endeavors.  Their relationships are freed of the burden and trust becomes easier. 

Are you tired of carrying the burden of old memories with you?  Call today and let’s discuss how EMDR therapy can help you!