Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Originally intended to help clients suffering from symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the psychic pain caused by traumatic memories, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) has now been integrated into different psychotherapies as a way to reformulate negative beliefs and reprocess bad memories in a healthy manner.
EMDR challenges the assumption that severely traumatic memories ranging from childhood abuse to war-time experiences require years from which to recover. With this kind of unconventional psychotherapy, however, clients are discovering that the body is not only capable of healing physical wounds but mental wounds as well. Psychologists advocating for the use of EMDR assert that the brain naturally gravitates towards being mentally healthy as much as its desire to remain physically healthy.
Founder of EMDR therapy Dr. Francine Shapiro believes that traumas generate pathological transformations on the brain’s neuron-based communication network. As a result, these memories are locked permanently into this network because they have not been normally processed and accepted in a way conducive to a person’s psychological health. Dr. Shapiro asserts that REM, or “repetitive” eye movements could be the brain’s way of naturally desensitizing trauma patients to severely disturbing memories that continue to cause debilitating anxiety.
Several highly publicized controlled studies have been performed using EMDR techniques on trauma victims. Results of these studies revealed that nearly 90 percent of the subjects experienced minimal to nonexistent symptoms of PTSD after three sessions. Another study involved combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD who participated in six, one hour sessions. Following completion of the EMDR program, almost 80 percent of the military veterans no longer suffered PTSD symptoms.
EMDR and Addiction Disorders
Many people suffering from addiction disorders have experienced traumatic events that cause them to feel severe and relentless anxiety, depression, panic and crushing guilt. By using drugs, alcohol, sex or the internet to control and escape unbearable feelings, clients consistently choose these types of unhealthy self-medication practices because they do not know of any other way to relieve such profound psychological stress.
While substance abuse negatively impacts all of the body’s physiological systems, chronic stress and anxiety unaccompanied by drug or alcohol abuse will often cause physical illnesses such as heart problems, high cholesterol and hypertension. EMDR may help alleviate these feelings that provoke the overwhelming compulsion to escape into addictions.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Center for PTSD:
- Up to 75 percent of people surviving a violent or abusive trauma develop alcoholism
- Up to 33 percent of people surviving a severe accident, disaster or illness develop alcoholism, especially when a traumatic event has left the person with health issues
- Up to 80 percent of Vietnam War veterans have experienced PTSD and alcohol addiction problems at some point in their lives.
- We are proud to offer EMDR at Serenity Now, CMHC.