While cognitive therapies can be powerful and work wonders over time, many patients just can’t wait that long—that’s why I started using EMDR to treat trauma.
If there is one thing that every patient I see wants to work on, it is feeling better about themselves. Whether it’s low self-esteem or self-worth, or feelings of guilt and shame, most of the patients I work with want to learn ways of eradicating negative self-talk and beliefs.
Cognitive therapies work very well for most of my patients, but sometimes it’s just not enough.
That’s where Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) comes in.
EMDR and Trauma
In my practice, I work mainly with women who have experienced traumas of some sort. Trauma means something different to each of the women I work with, but one of the common denominators of women with trauma histories is negative beliefs about themselves.
A lot of traumatic experiences happen when we are children. When trauma happens, the memory of the trauma is stored differently than normal memories because the brain is unable to process or make sense of what happened during the traumatic experience.
When the brain cannot understand what happened and why, we tend to internalize and think that the trauma happened because there is something wrong with us. When shameful and negative beliefs are formed in childhood, they become part of our foundational neural network.
These negative beliefs become the foundation for how we view ourselves, and we carry these with us into adulthood.
Cognitive Therapies vs EMDR
For many years, I was using cognitive therapies to try to help these women change their negative beliefs and self-talk. Cognitive therapies work very well, and when done consistently over a long period of time, it is entirely possible to re-condition the brain to think differently about oneself.
However, because cognitive therapies take a long time to work and require daily practice between sessions, sometimes the results are just not seen fast enough to improve someone’s quality of life.
I wanted to find another way to help these women that would be faster and long-lasting.
So, I decided to become EMDR trained.
How EMDR and Trauma Works
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique used by trained therapists to help desensitize the reactions you might have to memories of a traumatic event. It also replaces the negative beliefs associated with the event with a more adaptive belief.
EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, usually in the form of eye movement, to bring up events and situations that are associated with unhealthy belief systems in the neural network.
The bilateral stimulation desensitizes you to the triggering event, and then a more adaptive belief is integrated into the neural network.
The bilateral stimulation can be done in many ways, including eye movements or tapping, and helps the brain process the traumatic memory that was never fully processed.
It might sound crazy, but it really works.
During EMDR processing, it’s normal for the person’s thoughts and feelings about the traumatic event to start to change as the memory is processed.
I’ve seen profound changes in my patient’s beliefs about themselves after just a few sessions of EMDR. I’ve seen patients come into therapy having persistent beliefs that they are not good enough, and after finishing EMDR, truly feeling as though they are valuable, worthy, and good enough.
EMDR Can Treat PTSD, Anxiety, Panic Disorders, and Addiction
EMDR has now been shown to be very helpful in treating a number of conditions including PTSD, anxiety, panic disorders and addictive behaviors.
If you think EMDR might be right for you, it’s really important that you talk to a trained licensed therapist.
There are definitely situations where EMDR is not appropriate, and I make sure I go through all of the risks and benefits with my patients before beginning the process.
Feeling better about yourself is totally possible!
It’s just about finding the right therapist to guide you in the process.