There are several EMDR trained practitioners as EMDR is such an effective therapeutic tool. EMDR is a therapeutic technique that can be used for most mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive thinking and especially trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). There are two types of trauma, big traumas and small traumas. A car accident, witnessing something traumatic or experiencing a sexual or physical assault would be considered a big trauma. It is often, but not always, a one time event that can result in PTSD. An embarrassing incident, getting bullied, or a verbally abusive experience could be considered a small trauma. Small traumas tend to be more pervasive as they have built up over your lifetime. The pervasiveness and accumulation of these experiences can cause or be linked to the mental health issues we experience such as depression, compulsivity and anxiety.
A traumatic event is any experience that caused us to have a heightened state of stress. Think of the term fright or flight. Because of this heightened state our ability to process information becomes hijacked. The memory of the event stays with us in its unprocessed state. Connected to the memory are the affective, physiological and emotional feelings we experienced. We also create negative false beliefs about our self and our environment as a result of the un-processed traumatic experience.
EMDR enables a client to access and reorganize the affective, physiological and emotional states that remain attached to the memory and have often caused us to have false beliefs about our selves and situations. For example the belief I am worthless or I am not in control. Talking about memories will allow you to feel the affective, physiological and emotional states but does not necessarily change them except perhaps on a intellectual level. For example intellectually we can understand that a memory is in the past, that I am in control, that I know I am capable but we won’t necessarily feel that thus we don’t own that as whole parts of who we are. We think it, but don’t feel the truth of it.
In EMDR Bilateral stimulation is used and it is the bilateral stimulation that enables the affective, physiological and emotional states to reorganize thus change. There are specific steps the therapist guides the patient through in an EMDR session. Bilateral Stimulation is a technique that stimulates the right and left hemispheres of the brain bilaterally. This can be done through touch, sound or sight. For example by following and object, often the therapists fingers, with your eyes as it goes back and forth from left to right you are engaging in bilateral stimulation. Additionally I use tappers, a small round plastic thing that you hold in your hands. The tappers vibrate bilaterally. I also use headphones with sounds alternating in the left and right ears.
For some with a single event trauma, the trauma can be cleared within one to two sessions. EMDR is so effective because the technique allows you to access a level of memory that is unreachable by just talking about the memory. The bilateral stimulation enables this access. The bilateral stimulation also enables you to reinforce the positive realistic belief that replaces the negative belief. Taking the example used earlier simply the belief I am worthless changes to I am capable and the positive feelings attached to the new belief are reinforced.
I see EMDR as opening a door into your memory that accesses the stuck, unaltered affective, physiological and emotional junk that has been impenetrable. Walking through that door and leaving that junk behind frees one up from the mental health issues that have plagued them.
Below is a video of snippets from an EMDR session conducted by a therapist in California. The video helps give you an idea of what an EMDR session is like and how it is helpful.