How EMDR therapy can resolve trauma

How EMDR therapy can resolve trauma

May 29, 2024

In daily life we all use our minds to figure things out, cope with predictable stresses, and regulate our emotions and our self-esteem. The experience of trauma overwhelms our capacity to cope, and the trauma experience often gets stored in our minds in ways that make it very difficult to use our usual ways of coping. For example, even though we know that a traumatic event happened in the past, it becomes impossible for us to think about it without starting to feel emotions and other sensations that occurred at the time of the original experience.

We also typically develop a negative way of thinking about ourselves in relation to trauma, such as “I caused it” or “I’m a bad person.” These negative thoughts may influence how we think and feel about ourselves in other situations.

This is where EMDR therapy can be helpful.

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing”. It is a procedure used in psychotherapy to help reduce the impact of experiences from the past that intrude on your present-day life. Usually, these experiences from the past involve a trauma such as assault, abuse, an accident, or a natural disaster. Even though the trauma may have happened many months or even years ago, we still feel its impact in our daily life through post traumatic symptoms such as intrusive memories, emotional flooding, nightmares, anxiety, numbing, low self-esteem, and difficulty getting on with our life.

EMDR has also been used to help people deal with anxiety and panic, grief, reactions to physical illness, and many other conditions where strong emotions are associated with life experiences. It attempts to activate our coping skills to deal with the present day impact of the trauma. The EMDR procedure can help desensitise the images and feelings associated with the trauma. It can help us recognise and work on feelings and thoughts that come up with the trauma. And it can help us think differently about ourselves in relation to the trauma.

The EMDR Procedure

During EMDR therapy, clients will be asked to recall a troubling image from a past event, negative self-statement, emotions, and sensations while following the therapist’s finger movements. After pauses for reflection, the distress typically decreases, allowing for the introduction of positive self-statements associated with the original image.

“What EMDR does is enable us to see how little power or choice or capacity we often had in certain situations in order to effect that change”, says Emma Keaveny Cook, clinical psychologist EMDR at South Pacific Private. “So, part of it is about acknowledging other people might have made bad decisions and you felt the impact of that.” she explains.

Lucas* saw Emma to work through his childhood trauma experience and referred to his EMDR therapy as “layers of sediment in rocks where you know that was from many million years ago”. He knew that layer was there now, but he didn’t need to excavate and he didn’t need to be the archaeologist to go back and live in that experience anymore. It had become part of his story but he didn’t need to talk about it anymore“

What are the outcomes of EMDR?

After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced. Further, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level.

Depending on your progress, EMDR may bring relief in as few as one to six sessions or be integrated into longer-term therapy over several months.

At South Pacific Private, EDMR therapy is available to both our inpatient and outpatient clients. Call 1800 063 332 for more information.

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