Life is hard. When traumatic events happen, the memory can be “frozen” in the brain. Unable to discern time, the brain mistakenly decides that it is always in danger from the past traumatic event. People can get stuck in flight, fight, or freeze stress responses. This may look like nightmares, feeling “jumpy,” hypervigilance, thoughts about the memory, lack of trust in relationships, muscle aches, headaches, stomachaches, increased anxiety, or depressed mood. The traumatic memories also make us internalize false beliefs about ourselves, such as “it was my fault” or “no one will love me.”
The types of traumatic events that cause these lasting symptoms vary in severity. Natural disasters, house fires, serious car accidents, sexual assault, child abuse, and life-threatening events can cause memory to be frozen in the brain resulting in unpleasant symptoms. But much less obviously dangerous circumstances can create these symptoms too. A humiliating event, loss of a valued relationship, being bullied in childhood, perceived rejection from parents, and many other circumstances can also cause the traumatic stress responses and those internalized false beliefs.
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR as it is often called, is an evidence-based treatment for a variety of symptoms from trauma, anxiety, panic disorders, and depression. EMDR was originally developed to heal the effects of trauma, but now has been used as treatment for other symptoms. This treatment has been researched extensively and found to be extremely effective for symptoms of trauma and other disorders.
EMDR uses the brain’s own mechanisms for processing and holding memory to “digest” and make meaning of even the most traumatic memories. After these memories are processed with EMDR, symptoms decrease or disappear as the brain begins to understand it is safe. The traumatic memory remains, but the emotional impact diminishes. It doesn’t hurt as much to remember.
Only therapists who have gone through extensive training can incorporate EMDR into their counseling. At Arizona Family Counseling our EMDR therapists have been trained and receive ongoing consultation to provide the best possible care.
What is EMDR Used For?
EMDR can be used to successfully treat many issues.
- Trauma (including one-time events and ongoing abuse or neglect)
- Developmental early childhood trauma (including attachment injury)
- Anxiety and anxiety disorders
- Panic attacks
- Grief and loss
- A variety of other challenges
The Process of EMDR
Clients appreciate EMDR’s gentler approach to treatment. Like all therapies, EMDR can create moments of upset feelings and distress as clients and therapists work through traumatic events. However, this therapy often brings about relief faster than other forms of trauma therapy while addressing the wide variety of symptoms that clients may have.
EMDR does not require exhaustively discussing each traumatic detail but allows the healing to occur naturally and at the client’s pace. Therapists use eye movement or other bilateral alternating movements to help the client’s brain process traumatic memories or negative beliefs. Through the eight-phase treatment clients develop a feeling of safety, identify sources of support, process uncomfortable memories, and then create new positive messages to internalize.
EMDR for Children
When life is tough for children, EMDR can help provide healing. Children also benefit from the gentle approach to trauma therapy that EMDR provides. Therapists at Arizona Family Counseling have had specific training to incorporate play and expressive therapy interventions with EMDR. This method allows children to heal in a developmentally appropriate way with play while harnessing EMDR’s natural healing ability. What looks like simple play or coloring may actually be very advanced therapeutic processes at work!
Arizona Family Counseling EMDR therapists use the Attachment and Trauma Center of Nebraska’s Integrative Team Treatment model to treat attachment trauma with EMDR and family therapy interventions. Parents become important elements of therapy, providing support to their children as they progress through EMDR treatment.
EMDR over Telehealth
Arizona Family Counseling can provide EMDR in person in the traditional therapeutic office setting* or over video conferencing telehealth. Therapists use effective methods of eye movement or other bilateral alternating movements that can be accomplished over video calls. Clients can build safety and process traumatic memories in the comfort of their own homes.
More Information on EMDR
For more information, please watch EMDRIA’s video on how EMDR works:
If you would like more information on how EMDR can help you decrease symptoms and move past traumatic events please contact Arizona Family Counseling at 877 847-6104.
*Currently Arizona Family Counseling therapists are providing all counseling services over telehealth.