Blog: Articles on Psychological Wellbeing, Relationships, Brain Health, Counselling and Neurofeedback
Welcome to the blog of Sojourn Counselling and Neurofeedback. Articles posted here are written by our clinical staff and relate to services we offer or conditions we address. We hope they will be helpful to you in some way, whether you're considering counselling for yourself or someone else, gathering information on a mental health related issue, or just want to find out more about who we are and what we do.
Resolving Trauma with EMDR
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a form of therapy designed to help a person move on from an upsetting traumatic memory. EMDR is one of the most evidence-based forms of psychotherapy, proving to be an effective treatment for processing trauma across dozens of studies (Yunitri, et al, 2020).
If you find yourself still sensitive or triggered relating to a particular past event, EMDR may be right for you. It’s important to recognize that trauma isn’t necessarily related to an external event, trauma is what happens inside of you in response to that particular event. So, even if you experienced something like a car accident or a mistaken medical procedure that arouses fear of driving or seeing another doctor, EMDR can be helpful in reducing the impact of the upsetting memory, permitting you to move forward with your life. If you find yourself repeatedly brought back to a traumatic or deeply upsetting moment, EMDR might be one of the quickest paths to healing.
Megan’s Close Call
Megan survived a terrifying car accident one weekend, swerving away from an oncoming vehicle at the last second, narrowly avoiding a head on collision, and landing in the ditch. After dealing with the police and insurance company, she found herself distraught as she tried to fall asleep and woke up at 2am with terrifying nightmares of the close call. Over the next week, she found it difficult to sleep or relax, was on edge, and decided to walk to work instead of cab or bus. Being behind a wheel became terrifying for her, and she could hardly bear to look online for a new vehicle. Megan found it difficult to maintain her social relationships and be productive at work, as her symptoms of distress began to shrink her ability to function effectively. After several days, she began to turn to alcohol and sleeping pills to help her wind down and get some rest, and while that temporarily helped, Megan continued to experience terrifying nightmares and now started each day fighting off a hangover. She began to wonder whether she'd ever drive or even ride in a car again.
How Can EMDR Help Megan?
Megan decided to explore some therapy options and selected an EMDR therapist to help her with her harrowing memory of the car accident. The clinician asked her some questions about the event. She described the terrifying image of the opposing car driving right at her, and what that moment felt like. Her therapist asked about any negative beliefs she may have picked up about herself as a result of the traumatic experience. The therapist gave Megan a Thera-tapper machine to hold in each hand, which stimulates the left and right hemispheres of the brain through subtle vibrations, while she recalled aspects of the trauma memory.
After Megan completes a few rounds of processing the memory in this way, she notices her distress in session has lowered dramatically. While she continues to experience nightmares during the first few weeks of treatment, her therapist assures her this is all part of the emotional processing, and these should subside as her distress continues to diminish.
After another few sessions, Megan found that she no longer experienced anxiety when thinking about driving, and her flashbacks, nightmares and method of coping with alcohol were also slowly melting away. Feeling motivated by the progress, Megan decided to drive again, and while she experienced some mild anxiety, she was able to get behind the wheel and resume her life, free from the lingering trauma symptoms of the car accident.
What Do I need to Do to Process a Traumatic Memory?
The EMDR process begins with assessment and preparation. As the process involves remembering a traumatic event, it’s important to make sure you have adequate resources to manage the sometimes intense emotions that follow an EMDR session. After a couple sessions of assessment and building resources, you will be asked to pick a particular target memory to work on. You will be asked about the the mental image, the emotional reaction, bodily sensations and negative belief related to the target. The clinician will ask you to rate your level of distress as you think about the memory and then start a round of bilateral stimulation to help the nervous system continue processing the traumatic material.
After the EMDR process is complete, you should find that you don’t feel emotionally or physiologically reactive when you think back to the traumatic memory, and any negative beliefs you may have developed about yourself will have shifted towards a more positive belief about yourself as well (Shapiro, 2001).
What is EMDR Best Suited For?
EMDR is primarily a trauma therapy, designed to help de-sensitize from the unpleasant or distressing effects of remembering a traumatic incident. However, EMDR can also be helpful for anxiety, specific phobias, chronic pain, addictions, eating disorders, or PTSD (Valiente-Gomez et al, 2017).
EMDR has been found to increase cognitive processing of emotional material, as well as open the mind to new perspectives or alternate ways of viewing the past trauma memory. In clinical research settings, EMDR has been found to be effective in helping natural disaster survivors, car accident victims, survivors and those with PTSD and phobias (Yunitri, et al, 2020).
Check out another blog article on EMDR and depression to learn more about this powerful treatment.
If you’re interested in starting EMDR, you can book a session today and discuss the process with a member of the Sojourn team.
Acarturk, C., Konuk, E., Cetinkaya, M., Senay, I., Sijbrandij, M., Gulen, B., & Cuijpers, P. (2016). The efficacy of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among Syrian refugees: results of a randomized controlled trial. Psychological medicine, 46(12), 2583–2593. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291716001070
Carletto S, et al. (2017). EMDR for depression: A systematic review of controlled studies. iris.unito.it/retrieve/handle/2318/1651432/368358/Carletto%20et%20al%202017%20Clinical%20Neuropsychiatry.pdf
Valiente-Gomez A, et al. (2017). EMDR beyond PTSD: A systematic literature review. frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01668/full
Yunitri, N., Kao, C. C., Chu, H., Voss, J., Chiu, H. L., Liu, D., Shen, S. H., Chang, P. C., Kang, X. L., & Chou, K. R. (2020). The effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing toward anxiety disorder: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of psychiatric research, 123, 102–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychires.2020.01.005