Eye Movement, Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy modality developed by Francine Shapiro that is often used to help those who suffer from trauma or post traumatic stress disorder. According to Shapiro, the goal of EMDR is to “rapidly metabolize the dysfunctional residue from the past and transform it into something useful.”
If you choose this healing modality, Dr. Campbell will first conduct a psychosocial which gives her an overview of your life history then she will educate you about the process. Although you generally do not need to relive the original trauma, you will be asked to assess your own resources so that if memories surface unexpectedly, you will be able to manage the memories and use some techniques to help you feel safe.
She may also use some exercises to help strengthen your inner resources. Examples of resources are friends, hobbies, family, inspirational books, and inner resources such as the ability to calm yourself, to change your thinking to something positive when you become overwhelmed with emotion and/or images or a meditation or yoga practice.
When working with the image that represents the trauma, the process includes bi-lateral stimulation with either a light bar where your eyes move from one side to the next, hand pulsers that pulse in the right hand, then the left, back and forth, or headphones where sound brings your attention to one ear or the other.
Often when something traumatic happens, it seems to get locked in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and so on. Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up. It is the basis for a lot of discomfort and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness that we can’t seem to control. These are really the emotions connected with the experience that are being triggered.
The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow your brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep. The eye movements may be involved in processing unconscious material. The important thing to remember is that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and that you are the one in control.
Dr. Campbell will help you to identify the negative belief about yourself connected to the trauma and once this is cleared a positive belief will be installed. You may notice how this negative belief is connected to other situations in your life as well. This belief is often one that is stored below your conscious awareness and permeates your daily life. Accessing this belief and bringing the awareness out in the open help you to recognize how your behaviors have supported this negative belief, which will allow you more choices in your life.
The positive belief installed allows you to replace the negative belief with something positive. In the sessions, there will be pre-tests and a post-test that verify the change in the effect of the trauma so that you will know when it is cleared. This is an objective scale developed by Shapiro. Even if the score does not go to zero, the subconscious continues to work on an issue after the client has left the office.
You may sense gaining control over the components of the trauma (image, cognition, emotions, and sensations). The eye movements reduce the negative effect of the target or original memory, allowing you to be free of the trauma.
Trauma and dissociation can create major blocks to developmental tasks, and often people who experience them are disconnected from their bodies in some manner. One way to resolve health issues to is help people re-connect with their bodies. A part of the EMDR process known as the body scan can be helpful in bringing the client back into her or her body. After the processing is complete, the therapist will have the client scan her or his body from the top of the head downward, noticing if there is any “tension, tightness or unusual sensation” related to the relevant issue. In my experience, clients have noticed sensations, and with the bi-lateral stimulation, the sensations move, change, or go away. The process is continued until the sensations are cleared. Many clients have used this process on their own to pay attention to pain or sensations, and by tapping on their knees, right and then left, to the rhythm of a heartbeat, they can clear their own pain.
After the client has been prepared for the process, a target or issue can be cleared in one or several sessions. It depends upon the client, the issue and many other factors.
If you are interested in this process, please contact Candess M. Campbell, PhD for a session.