Before beginning EMDR it is helpful to understand how it works. When something happens that overwhelms our ability to cope, such as a traumatic event, it is not consolidated into our long-term memory, but rather remains in our working memory. This is why we can experience anxiety, nightmares, and flashbacks of the traumatic incident. When something traumatic happens it is usually stored in our brains like the root of a plant with an overall image. This image typically represents the worst part of the experience or memory, a body sensation, an emotion (or several emotions), or a residual belief that is usually negative about ourselves.
When stored this way our brain is unable to consolidate the memory with other memories or experiences and is held in our body by our nervous system. Our mind and our body are unable to digest and process the event effectively, thereby leaving us to repeatedly go over it in our minds. Research shows that when something traumatic or overwhelming happens the left side of our brain shuts down, which makes it difficult to give words to the experience along with sequence. In other words, the beginning and middle of the event is retained and the end never adequately reached until the experience has been digested or flushed out of our system. Brain scans show that the right side of our brain is activated when accessing the memory of our traumatic experience - this is the side of our brains with store the associative emotion.
EMDR can be helpful to create new neural pathways in our brain and process the traumatic experience and memory out of our system similar to how our body digests food. While EMDR does not remove the traumatic experience from our minds, it does help your mind and body digest it in a way that makes the experience remembered rather than relived. Simply put, EMDR helps consolidate and create new pathways in the brain and therefore aids in moving through trauma much faster than traditional psychotherapy alone.
If you would like to find out more about EMDR I encourage you to visit the EMDRIA website to learn about the 8-Phases of EMDR. This will be used to help determine the therapeutic pacing of EMDR between you and your therapist. Additionally, feel free to reach out to me if you would like to schedule a consultation to see if EMDR is right for you or to learn more about this heavily researched, evidenced-based, and effective treatment modality.
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