KATHY TELGER, LPC
GRIEF COUNSELING SPECIALIST
Guiding Individuals and Couples Through Transitions
Guiding Individuals and Couples through Transition
What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a powerful, cutting-edge therapy that is believed to rewire the brain. After a traumatic or disturbing life experience, such as the death of a loved one, you may feel stuck in difficult feelings such as anger, guilt, low self-esteem, powerlessness, or a feeling of being out of control. While EMDR cannot get rid of sadness or missing someone who is gone, EMDR can help you get "unstuck" in the grief process . It is believed that EMDR helps you quickly process through unhelpful feelings so you are free to move forward with greater peace of mind. Many EMDR clients experience powerful insights and an alleviation of their symptoms and negative feelings within a remarkably short time.
Research has shown EMDR to be highly effective in alleviating anxiety associated with PTSD or difficult experiences. EMDR is recognized as an effective therapy by the World Health Organization, American Psychiatric Association, and the Department of Defense for treatment of traumatic or upsetting events.
How can EMDR help me toward peace of mind?
If we decide EMDR therapy may be helpful for you, we will identify current or past events that may be contributing to what is bothering you now. We will use EMDR to "reprocess" those events or stressors with the goal that they will no longer trigger anxiety or negative feelings for you. "Reprocessing" in this case does not mean talking about it. Instead, it means allowing your brain to reprocess a memory or situation so that it becomes integrated into both the cognitive and emotional parts of the brain. People will often say to me something like, “Intellectually, I know I’m not really in danger, but I still feel anxious,” or “I know it wasn’t my fault, but I still feel guilty,” or “I know I’m a worthwhile person, but I still have this nagging feeling that I’m not good enough.” EMDR helps bridge that gap so that you can actually feel deeply what you already know to be true. When you can really feel safe or really feel that you’re a good and worthwhile person, you can finally have peace of mind. In traditional talk therapy, the goal is to close the door on things that used to bother you. In EMDR, the goal is to open the door and clean out everything behind it, so that there's a clear space that doesn't affect you anymore.
How does EMDR work?
It is believed that EMDR uses your brain's memory processing system to rewire the brain. During REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, your eyes move back and forth as you dream. Scientists believe this may be the time you process daily events from short-term memory into long-term memory. During EMDR therapy, these eye movements are recreated by simply watching the therapist's fingers move back and forth. During the session, we will start by focusing on a negative memory, event, or stress trigger and then do sets of eye movements for about a minute at a time. You'll be asked to report what thoughts, feelings, or connections you notice each time. It is thought that the eye movements may help access the brain's memory processing system. It is believed that upsetting memories are stored in the sensory part of the brain, which is why you can almost “relive” them. You can still “see” everything, “hear” everything. Memories that are "stuck" in the sensory part of you brain, even from many years ago, may contribute to current anxiety triggers, often outside our awareness. EMDR helps to integrate memories so they are stored and connected to other areas of the brain. They become “unstuck,” and part of a larger narrative. Current triggers are desensitized so that negative feelings no longer arise in the same situations. The emotional part of your brain can finally agree with the cognitive part that knows you're not really in danger. You can finally really feel at peace or feel like a good person, and truly let go of the past.
What can EMDR therapy be used for?
I use EMDR to help people be free from:
feeling "stuck" or "lost" in grief
PTSD and trauma
low self-esteem or self-worth
feelings of guilt or failure
upsetting past events
issues from childhood
Where can I find more information?
EMDR International Association: What is EMDR and how does it work?
Brain World Magazine: How EMDR Therapy Opens a Window to the Brain
Scientific American: Research Supports Effectiveness of EMDR
New York Times Blog: Evidence on EMDR
EMDR Institute: Research Overview
Short documentary video: Healing with EMDR, Personal Stories