Earlier this year I made a commitment to my professional development by signing up for a four month trauma training program in Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR). I completed my training from the EMDR Centre of Canada last week and have been reflecting on it since. I think it is important to share new learnings and it is my hope you take away something you didn't previously know by reading this.
What is EMDR? EMDR is a therapeutic technique developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1990's. It helps people to heal from trauma related symptoms that resulted from distressing life experiences. We all experience distressing life experiences and therefore we can all experience trauma to some degree or another. We can experience small traumas (small t's) or big traumas (big T's) during our lifetime. In my opinion, too many of us get caught up with the word "trauma" itself. When we use the word trauma, it feels BIG and I find most people compare their distressing life experiences to other peoples life experiences. Either people they know or people in other parts of the world. This is not helpful if we want to heal trauma related symptoms. It is far more important that we come to understand the impact that distressing life experiences have had on our mind and body than minimize our experiences by comparing it to people we may or may not know.
What we know from EMDR therapy is that the mind can heal from psychological trauma in the same way that the body recovers from physical trauma. As described by the EMDR Institute, founded by Francine Shapiro, "when you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that the brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is imbalanced by distressing life experiences, the emotional wound festers and can cause suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes."
So HOW does EMDR facilitate healing of psychological trauma? EMDR uses what we already know about REM sleep and stimulates eye movements similar to it to enhance learning, thinking and organization of information. Most mammals and birds enter REM sleep at some point throughout the night. This is the stage of sleep where we dream. Interesting fact! Children spend far more time in REM sleep and dreaming than adults do. The cortex is engaged during REM sleep and it is the cortex that is responsible for organizing information from the environment when we are conscious/awake. EMDR utilizes eye movements and standardized protocols to support the brain in learning and organizing information from distressing life experiences. EMDR transforms painful events on an emotional level. This means the memories of distressing events are no longer emotionally charged or anxiety inducing.
I am extremely excited to be offering this technique to clients. I believe it is a good fit for those who have experienced small t's and/or big T's and as a result are currently managing symptoms related to Anxiety and/or Depression. I have already seen positive results with the handful of clients I have used EMDR with. It is very promising. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I would love to discuss your thoughts on EMDR.
Last of all, I found a wonderful video by a therapist from the United States who shares her experience of receiving EMDR as a client. She now uses EMDR as a therapist in her private practice. It's informative and worth watching if you are considering EMDR.