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The Proven Power of EMDR Therapy Vancouver as Trauma Treatment
The human brain consists of billions of intertwining neurons. Any change in one neuron may affect others, which happens when a person is exposed to a traumatic event.
About 70% of American adults experience a traumatic event, although not all progress to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). When a person experiences stress, the brain releases cortisol and adrenaline. It is possible that these hormones can cause a person to feel more anxious, irritable, and depressed. Similarly, traumatic stress can cause sleep problems, headaches, chest pains, and chronic pain. (1)
The patient can undergo eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) to induce distressing memories and divert one’s attention. It is a behavioral psychotherapy treatment that allows the patient to control any upsetting emotions when such a memory is recalled. (2)
EMDR therapy is gaining popularity in Canada and other parts of the world as a trauma treatment method. It has been proven effective in treating PTSD. But what exactly is EMDR therapy? How does it work? And why should you consider getting EMDR therapy in Vancouver?
What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy has proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD. This therapy is a non-invasive technique that helps patients with traumatic experiences, ranging from military combat, sexual assault, car accident, and many other distressing experiences. EMDR can assist clients in processing and reintegrating traumatic experiences and memories. (2)
This treatment can help treat clients experiencing symptoms of PTSD by improving their emotional well-being. The therapy involves repeatedly bringing attention to distressing thoughts and feelings and using eye movement, bilateral stimulation, and deep relaxation to help people overcome trauma.
EMDR therapy posits that traumatic experiences – emotional or physical – are similarly stored in the brain. Traumatic events cause changes in the way the brain processes information.
Traumatic memories are often associated with intense emotions. When these emotions are experienced, memories of the traumatic experience may be triggered. Sometimes, the intensity of the traumatic experience may result in the individual experiencing difficulties recalling the specifics of the traumatic event. This is the brain’s way of trying to protect us from distressing or upsetting material. Through EMDR, a series of techniques are used to assist the client in processing the painful memory while reducing the distressing or upsetting emotions.
Why use EMDR therapy?
There are several reasons why EMDR therapy may be beneficial for specific conditions.
- It works on retrieval practice: Since traumatic memories are stored in our brains as though they were physical injuries, people need to learn how to deal with them to lessen the effect. EMDR therapy helps patients retrieve these memories and change their perspective on them.
- Evidence backs it up: Evidence suggests that EMDR therapy can be an effective PTSD treatment. Studies have shown that EMDR therapy is just as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in reducing symptoms of PTSD.
- It’s a relatively safe procedure: While no therapy is without risk, EMDR poses minimal side effects. The most common risk is the experience of mild discomfort during the initial stages of treatment.
- It’s non-invasive: Patients do not require anesthesia or medication to receive the treatment.
How does EMDR work?
In EMDR therapy, the clinician guides the patient through eight steps designed to help them process the memory. (3)
- History-taking and treatment planning: The therapist and client work together to identify targets for therapy. Targets include memories, current triggers, and future goals.
- Preparation: The therapist explains the treatment and introduces the client to the procedures, practicing eye movement and other bilateral stimulation (BLS) components.
- Assessment: Activates the memory targeted in the session by identifying and assessing each memory component: image, cognition, affect, and body sensation.
- Desensitization: The client focuses on memory during this phase while engaging in eye movements or BLS. Then the client reports that new thoughts have emerged.
- Installation: Strengthening the preferred positive cognition.
- Body scan: The therapist will ask the clients to observe their physical responses while remembering the incident.
- Closure: If the session can’t fully process the target memory, the therapist will provide specific instructions and techniques to ensure the safety of the client until the next session.
- Re-evaluation: The therapist evaluates the client’s current psychological state, whether treatment effects are maintained or if there are emerging memories, and sets out new targets for the next session.
What are the benefits of EMDR therapy?
Since the introduction of EMDR in psychotherapy, several studies have found support for its effectiveness. These benefits include:
1. Helps patients recover from trauma
Psychologists recommend EMDR for people living with PTSD. It has been proven highly effective at dealing with many types of trauma. Moreover, through BLS, the brain reprocesses the negative emotions caused by the trauma. In effect, EMDR aids patients who suffer from various life traumas such as depression, abuse, grief, nightmares, divorces, etc. (4)
2. Helps reduce distress
The client repeatedly recalls the painful memory during therapy while engaging in bilateral stimulation. Together, these two processes reduce the intensity of the emotion associated with the memory. The process guides the patient’s eyes to move from side to side, similar to during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. (5)
Through this process, clients will begin to recall these traumatic experiences without the associated emotional intensity.
3. Empowers to transform beliefs
Many people subconsciously hold limiting beliefs because of their unpleasant past experiences. It could be a rejection from childhood, making you think that you matter less and are afraid of sharing your opinions. Or it could be an unfulfilled dream or goal.
EMDR treatment helps clients develop new ways of thinking about themselves and their experiences by helping them see that their thoughts are just interpretations of events and that they can think of an alternative, more positive interpretations.
4. Helps manage stress
Stress from everyday life can take its toll over time if not appropriately managed and lead to complete exhaustion. You can deal with stress in different ways, and sometimes engaging in EMDR therapy may help you release all the stresses you carry throughout your daily life. Don’t wait until you’re completely burnt out before doing something to address the problem.
5. Promotes self-improvement
EMDR treatment is helpful for everyone, not just those suffering from conscious disorders. Changing negative beliefs can improve your relationship skills, work performance, creativity, and health. With a shift in perspective, you can change how you deal with everything in life.
EMDR therapy is a highly-recommended treatment for many types of traumas. However, it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified professional. Please consult experts or your trusted therapist if you want to learn more about how EMDR works.
- “What Is Trauma? Effects, Causes, Types, and How to Heal”, Source: https://psychcentral.com/health/what-is-trauma
- “EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing,” Source: https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/emdr-what-is-it
- “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy,” Source: https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing
- “How Does EMDR Therapy Work?” Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6106867/
- “EMDR,” Source: https://www.drasacs.org.uk/emdr/
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