In this video, EMDR therapists discuss how EMDR therapy works and the positive feedback they have received from clients. Learn what it’s like to experience EMDR therapy and how the therapy is widely recognized by trusted organizations.
In the video
- Rick Levinson, MSW, LCSW, EMDRIA Approved Consultant, EMDRIA Approved Training Provider
- Carol Logan, PhD, Police Psychologist, Austin Police Department
- Marshall Lyles, MA, LPC-S, LMFT-S, Registered Play Therapist¬—Supervisor, EMDRIA Approved Consultant
- William Henry Petty, PhD, Victim’s Services Unit, Houston Police Department
- Marisol Solarte-Erlacher, MA, LPC, EMDRIA Approved Consultant
[William Henry Petty]
There is still this perception that going to seek out mental health is a sign of weakness. You should be tough enough to handle this or you should be able to work through this. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Sometimes we have difficult experiences that change what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. And all of us have those experiences.
When I started adding in EMDR I was amazed at the speed at which they could process through these tragic losses and get to a place of starting to find some peace around what had really been unimaginable pain for them.
Sometimes people will say well I wouldn’t need EMDR ’cos I don’t have these huge horrific things that happen to me. Some of those traumas are not people shooting at you or car wrecks. For example, if you’re in sixth grade middle school and you’re reading a book report and everybody’s laughing at you because you have horrible acne, that’s a trauma.
EMDR is useful and appropriate for people across the lifespan. Multiple presentations, multiple kinds of struggles, and multiple types of abilities. I have found it to be an extremely successful choice for just about anyone who walks in the door.
So the whole point behind trauma treatment is to help an individual move past or process that trauma to where the brain is not reacting as if it’s still in danger.
Let’s take a brief look at what happens when we experience trauma. Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm system for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger) and the prefrontal cortex (which controls behavior and emotion).
While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, some experiences may not be processed without help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of being overwhelmed, of being back in that moment, or of being frozen in time.
EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.
For example, if someone were hiking and you encounter a bear, our nervous system is automatically going to respond. And what can happen is if we safely get out of that situation, but we still have that experience stored in that part of our brain, the next time we go on a hike and we hear maybe a rustling in the tree then our nervous system is going to continue to respond in some way.
One of the tricks that can happen is our mind convinces us that we’re still reliving those memories we’re not just remembering them.
Trauma and unprocessed painful experiences from the past is not a psychological thing, it doesn’t mean that someone is weak psychologically. It’s not a character issue, it’s a brain thing. That events occurred that increased levels of stress that interfered with the brain’s ability to process the inflow of information and that information got stuck in the nervous system, it did not have the opportunity to get processed.
We’re explaining trauma as an understandable biological event that has happened. A change in the neurological linkage of your brain. And how can you be ashamed of that? If you break your arm, how are you ashamed that that arm is broken? No, I got a broken arm, I need to fix it.
What actually is being fixed is neurological. The outcome of that is a cognitive shift, is that you don’t actually believe that you are helpless anymore.
Once a client comes to a session and has completed history-taking, then typically we identify the memory that we want to reprocess, any negative beliefs related to it. Those negative beliefs might be I’m not safe, I’m not worthy, I don’t have value in relationship to other people. And once we identify that negative belief and the distress related to that target memory, we also look at what could be a positive belief that we move toward.
Folks think about this memory and then we guide them through a series of sets of rapid eye movement. Just 30 seconds, it allows the brain then to process small chunks of it at a time.
That dual attention, bilateral work keeps the body here in the room keeps the person grounded in their body, creates this rhythm that speaks safety and is ideal for making meaning by keeping someone focused on the present while accessing things that happened in the past.
It’s kinder. It’s a gentler way of treating trauma than having to open old wounds and stare at them ‘til one of you blink.
When we stop a set, they’re going wow I feel so much lighter, I feel like a weight has been lifted, I feel peaceful like something’s much better.
One of the things that I most commonly notice at the end of a successful EMDR session is a child who just feels more understood and more seen and more cared for. And they just have a different presence in their eyes.
EMDR is one of the most researched therapies out there and the research shows that not only is it highly effective but it’s also the most efficient trauma treatment.
When I went to the training and I saw the first demonstration I recognized how absolutely effective that those techniques would be with processing trauma quickly, without a lot of language being needed to describe it, and how beneficial that was to a lot of our crime victims who weren’t able to actually articulate all the events that had happened.
EMDR therapy is proving effective in some of the most acute trauma scenarios. And because it is a proven, evidence-based approach, a growing roster of mental health organizations promote and support the therapy.
There’s so much trauma worldwide and here it is that we have this ability to so effectively and efficiently treat trauma. The question is how can we make it available? How can we give people access to it?
What I love in the work that I get to do is watching someone come into contact with a part of themselves that’s previously only been confusing and disorienting and all of a sudden find mastery over how to make meaning about that experience or that character trait or that memory.
What a wonderful thing to witness. I feel so lucky to be able to do EMDR.
The feedback that I get from clients who have really gone through the process of EMDR and able to complete EMDR therapy is that their lives are transformed.
I never thought there would be a breakthrough like that in my career as a psychologist.
EMDR International Association
Copyright © 2019 EMDR International Association
EMDR International Association. (2019, September 5). Introduction to EMDR therapy [Video]. YouTube. https://youtu.be/_QJbCtr8bvA