Foundations Family Counseling - Blog - An Introduction to EMDR Therapy

An Introduction to EMDR Therapy

There are many misconceptions about trauma that keep people from getting help. Some people are convinced that their trauma isn’t serious enough to require treatment, that admitting they’re struggling to overcome difficult memories and experiences means they are weak.

EMDR Therapy is not designed just to treat survivors of catastrophic events; EMDR helps people overcome the inevitable difficulties of life. Here’s a short list naming a few of what these inevitable difficulties might include: experiences that were scary, negative or overwhelming, negative or limiting beliefs, looping behaviors, addictions, attachment behaviors that replay themselves in relationships, family of origin issues, ruptures in relationships, accidents, phobias, anticipated fears, ect….

EMDR helps desentize the emotion of the experience, create insights and increases self-efficacy. It creates connections to the adaptive information already in your brain. EMDR is a therapy that can bring about the healing you’ve been looking for and wondering if it was possible.

How Does Trauma Affect the Brain?

Your brain is naturally designed to promote survival, which includes a built-in trauma response system. This system enacts your “fight-flight or freeze” response, which is what floods your nervous system during stressful situations and chooses the appropriate response to keep you safe in that moment.

When the danger has ceased but your brain is unable to successfully make sense or resolve this experience, the brain becomes stuck with inadequately processed memories leading to physical and psychological symptoms. As a result, the same feelings of fear, shutdown and overwhelm felt during a traumatic moment can become ingrained in your mind. This can cause you to relive the same anger, panic, anxiety, numbness and fear for months or even years.

EMDR treats trauma as a neurological problem, not a psychological abnormality. By changing how your brain reacts to specific traumatic events, your thoughts around that event will also begin to change.

How EMDR Can Help You?

Traditional talk therapy can be painful for many clients; while trauma-informed therapy does help alleviate some of the discomfort, many people are unable to even begin contemplating their trauma without experiencing intense anxiety, panic attacks or shut down. Instead, EMDR will help your brain digest the traumatic experiences. It will take pieces of the trauma, reprocess them, create new memory networks of adaptive information which then lead to new understandings about yourself and that traumatic experience.

EMDR therapy uses the present to reprogram the past. Rather than reliving your trauma, you are taught to ground yourself in the present moment, focus on how your body responds to discomforting thoughts and with support from your therapist, connect to the true and adaptive information networks in your brain. One of the major goals in EMDR therapy is to never ovewhelm the nervous system but always to provide a balance of the past with the known information in the present.

As your brain becomes desensitized to traumatic memories, you can begin to move forward and adopt more positive beliefs without feeling unsafe. Combined with additional forms of trauma therapy, including CBT, Internal Family Systems, Somatic Therapy, therapists can help clients overcome trauma and begin to see effective change in the present moment while healing from a difficult past.