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EDMR Therapy for Trauma-Related Symptoms

EMDR stands for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. This therapeutic approach was founded by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1990, and was originally developed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Since then, research has found that it can also be helpful for phobias, childhood trauma, behavioral issues, and relationship issues. You will be assessed during intake to see if EMDR may be an appropriate component of your treatment.

When traumatic situations occur, they can get stored in the brain improperly and feel "frozen" there. Although an event happened in the past, it can be "lit up" and activated in the present, resulting in overreactions, discomfort, anxiety, etc.. EMDR consists of a three prong approach, targeting issues in the past, present and future.

There are eight phases of EMDR:

1) History: your history will be taken. The history taken in EMDR is trauma-focused as well as to see if EMDR is a right fit for you. We will explore where you experienced neglect, abuse, emotional or physical trauma, and negative feelings about yourself. We will also discuss your family's trauma history as this can have an impact on us without our awareness.

2) Preparation: The preparation phase consists of learning about the bilateral stimulation and seeing what type you prefer. I offer tactile stimulation, binaural audio beats, eye movements, and tapping. Some prefer one, two, or all three. During this phase I will also learn about your current coping skills, in which we will then add to or enhance. In this phase, I often use mindfulness exercises focused on breathing, mind/body awareness, and guided imagery.

3) Assessment: You will choose which memory or issue you would like to target. Together we will assess what emotions, beliefs, and sensations are associated with the target. 

4) Desensitization: Bilateral stimulation and reprocessing occurs in this phase. The memory networks are lit up in order to correctly "file them" in the appropriate spots in the brain, thus desensitizing your brain to present triggers associated with the frozen traumatic material.

This occurs in "sets", in which you reprocess, beginning at your target chosen. At intervals I will check in with you to see what you notice shifting for you (thoughts, body sensations, memories, emotions). Majority of the session is quiet, as you are reprocessing and tapping into your brain's natural ability to heal itself. This part is to make sure that you are processing and shifting, in which you may share as little or as much as you are comfortable with. I will also guide you if you feel stuck. You may stop at any time, as you are always in control.

5) Installation: After reprocessing is complete, we will "install" and solidify positive cognitions and insights that were identified

during phase 4.

6) Body Scan: You will be asked to hold the original memory/image in mind along with your newly installed positive belief, and notice any uncomfortable sensations or unusal shifts throughout your body that might indicate any leftover residual associations, which we then would process.

7) Closure: Debriefing occurs at the end of each session, even if it is an incomplete (in which we would reprocess starting with the main target memory the next session). A calming exercise may be used as well.

8) Re-evaluation: At the start of each session following reprocessing, we will go over any new insights, dreams, beliefs, thoughts, behaviors or memories that came up for you between sessions. The brain processes up to 36 hours after bilateral stimulation, so people often report more healing or insights between sessions.

After you and I agree that the original target, and all "pop-off" targets are processed and adapted, we will begin the "future" stage of the three-prong approach. The first 8 phases help reprocess the past in order to clear the present triggers. We then can move forward. Together, we will identify future challenging situations, as well as review the skills that might be required to get through. 

EMDR is typically used in conjunction with other therapy modalities including traditional talk therapy, interpersonal therapy, psycho-education, family systems, and mindfulness-based therapy interventions.

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