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Poder Mental
Health Counseling

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Deepening your Awareness

EMDR

If you have ever experienced a traumatic event in your life, you know how it can affect all aspects of your life. Trauma can lead to anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and even physical symptoms such as chronic pain. This doesn't have to be your story.

Are you someone that...

Has experienced things that continue to impact you today, and feels stuck or held back by trauma? Perhaps you find it challenging to go on about your day without intrusive thoughts popping into your head. 

 

Becomes too distressed when talking about or revisiting certain experiences? Perhaps you struggle with depression, anxiety, OCD or phobias and are unsure why or how to move through it. 

 

Still struggles to accept a loss that happened years ago, and it pains you to think or talk about them?  Perhaps you find it easier to avoid reminders and find that your life has become gray.

Has tried talk therapy before and feel that you need something more or different this time around.

The life you envision is possible!

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Image by Hichem Dahmani

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful and extensively researched psychotherapy method used to support individuals recover from trauma and PTSD.

 

Prior to EMDR, therapy relied on prolonged talking approaches which can be re-traumatizing and extremely painful. EMDR is meant to lessen the painful physical and emotional reaction you have to deeply traumatic memories by creating a safe, structured method to work through , heal, and move beyond the effects of trauma on the mind and body.

During EMDR, clients focus on a particular disturbing memory while engaging in bilateral stimulation (BLS), like eye movements or hand movements. This process activates the information processing system in the brain to tap into the working memory, creating new neural pathways for experiencing the trauma. After a series of these sessions, symptoms that the client experiences while speaking about the traumatic event will significantly reduce.

 

EMDR has proven to be more effective than Prozac in trauma treatment (Van der Kolk et al., 2007); and it is also effective for anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019). Current research shows that when administered by a trained professional, EMDR is safe, with no adverse side effects. 

EMDR is effective in-person & online via video call.

How does it work?

EMDR posits that trauma is like a wound. As long as you keep picking at the wound, it will never heal. But the practice of EMDR stitches up the wound and allows space for it to heal over so you can feel the scar without experiencing intense, excruciating pain. 

The eight-stage process of EMDR works to restore the neural pathways in your brain that cause intense physical symptoms associated with your traumatic memory. The ultimate goal is symptom relief. 

1. History-taking and Treatment Planning

In the first phase, your therapist will get a full history from you and conduct a psychological assessment to see if this is the best method of treating your presenting ailments. You’ll work with your therapist to identify moments to focus on in treatment, called “targets.” These targets can be a past traumatic memory, a current experience, a person, a disturbing mental image, or a worry about the future.

2. Preparation

Next, your therapist will explain the treatment to you and allow you time to practice bilateral stimulation techniques you’ll be doing in the treatment, such as a light bar for eye movements, a hand tapping device, or auditory tones. 

You’ll also be given tools to access an emotionally safe space in case the treatment becomes too intense – different exercises and techniques specific to your preferences exercise will be used as a temporary resting place during trauma processing.

 

3. Assessment

Next, you and your therapist will begin the treatment by activating the memory you’re targeting in the session. You will identify three components of the memory: image (what comes to mind), affect (how you feel), and body sensation (how your body is responding to the trauma). Your therapist will use measurements to determine your baseline pre-treatment response to the trauma.

4. Desensitization

Then, your therapist will tell you to focus on the memory while engaging in the type of bilateral stimulation you’ve practiced earlier. You’ll then report any new sensations that have emerged, such as thoughts, emotions, or bodily feelings. Each time you feel a new sensation, you’ll engage in more bilateral stimulation. 

When the therapist’s measure of your subjective distress has sufficiently decreased, you’ll move on to the fifth phase.

 

5. Installation

The installation phase is when your therapist begins to help you associate positive beliefs or cognitions with the targeted event. With these affirmations, you can begin to reclaim your survivorship and feel validated in your strength against oppressive, othering trauma. 

You and your therapist will repeat these statements until they feel genuine and authentic to you. 

 

6. Body Scan

In the sixth phase, your therapist will help you conduct a body scan. You’ll observe and reflect on the physical feelings your body associates with the trauma along with the positive cognition. You’ll identify any remaining somatic distress and process it with BLS.

 

7. Closure

You’ll then end the treatment portion of the session with closure. If the memory wasn’t processed in the session fully, your therapist will walk you through containment, aftercare, and you’ll create a safety plan so that you’ll feel emotionally supported between sessions. 

 

8. Re-evaluation

Finally, the last phase occurs in the following session as you re-evaluate the previous session. You’ll tell your therapist about your level of distress, if your positive cognitions are still in place, and how you’d like to move forward in identifying an additional target if the initial target has been processed and worked through.

Ready to know if EMDR is right for you?

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