What is EMDR Therapy?
An easy way to think of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is as a reboot for your brain. The reboot aims to clear any jammed pathways in your mind. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation to help you safely process improperly stored memories.
The EMDR process is similar to REM sleep or dreaming since it helps your mind reorganize those memories the same way your brain does when you sleep. EMDR therapy is effective in treating conditions such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), anxiety, and other trauma-related stresses. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to reduce the emotional impact of these memories, make them less overwhelming, and replace formerly negative beliefs about the self with a newfound sense of self-love, courage, and overall positive beliefs about the self.
We don’t just look back when we’re implementing EMDR. Our objective is to move forward and build a stronger, more resilient you.
Unfortunately, trauma is a fact of life and a common experience for many
An estimated 5.2 million American adults ages 18 to 54, or approximately 3.6 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have PTSD. (https://www.apa.org/research/action/ptsd) Overwhelming and threatening experiences, when not properly treated, can lead to symptoms of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and play a role in the development of addictions and eating disorders.
Traumatic experiences can come from being in a car accident, going to war, being in an abusive relationship, crime and experiencing a natural disaster.
If you’re struggling with symptoms of PTSD, this doesn’t mean that there is anything inherently wrong with you or that you are “weak.” What it means is that you experienced something that was too much for your physiology and brain to handle, so much so that you couldn’t integrate the experience and move on from it.
Trauma isn’t as much about the event that occurred but about what happened to your nervous system such that it got stuck in fight, flight, or freeze.
Many Professional Associations Recognize The Power of EMDR Therapy
EMDR therapy was founded by Francine Shapiro in 1987. The treatment method gained acceptance after rigorous research and clinical trials that demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing symptoms of PTSD and other psychological traumas (1). As time passed, many mental health organizations and practitioners worldwide praised the method for its rapid effectiveness, credibility, and easy adoption into therapy settings.
S.A.F.E. EMDR therapy is different from traditional EMDR therapy and other forms of trauma therapy in that it incorporates a simplified way to conceptualize attachment and bodily-based safety theories alongside the principles of nonviolence and mindfulness. In other forms of trauma therapy, attachment patterns and trauma responses are often viewed as obstacles to the healing process. However, S.A.F.E. EMDR uses these responses as strengths rather than weaknesses. This approach allows for fewer moments of distress and decreased resistance to therapy.
Deborah Kennard developed S.A.F.E. EMDR to address common blocks that therapists were experiencing when working with clients with complex trauma. Many therapists believe that it is one of the safest and most efficient ways to implement therapy due to the emphasis on a client’s strengths and resources. Instead of merely focusing on what’s causing you emotional pain, S.A.F.E. EMDR utilizes what you do well to help you heal from trauma.
Now that we know what S.A.F.E.EMDR is, the next question is: “How effective is it?” Studies have shown EMDR psychotherapy to be more successful than pharmacotherapy in achieving sustained reductions in PTSD and depression symptoms in most victims of adult-onset trauma (2). Additionally, ongoing research supports EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (3).
It integrates somatic and attachment-focused approaches with traditional EMDR, addressing trauma’s physical and relational aspects for comprehensive healing.
In S.A.F.E. EMDR practice, we guide clients through a questionnaire to assess individual client needs before we begin the S.A.F.E. EMDR process. There are also some other steps we go through before initiating the S.A.F.E. EMDR protocol:
- Somatic Experimental Processes: The goal of this approach is to get in touch with your body and stop getting stuck in negative thought patterns. While you are doing so, we will help you take notice of your stress responses and how your body may be trying to protect you. You will start to see how your body is also already trying to soothe you and help you regulate. We are on the lookout for any activity that enables you to stay grounded in the body and present in the moment.
- Nervous System Regulation Education: To properly assess your individual needs, we must find out where you are on the fight, flight, or freeze scale. We will figure out if you are stuck in (or flip-flopping between) a state of depression (underactivation/freeze) and/or anxiety (overactivation/fight-flight) in your response to trauma. We need to understand how your nervous system is currently functioning. Then, we can begin to understand how to help you regulate your system and reduce your stress
The method follows a structured and integrative approach:
- Assessment and Stabilization: This is an evaluation of your current emotional stability and current presentation of adaptive responses that may have developed as a result of trauma and/or strained attachments
- Resource Development: We will teach you coping skills for emotional management.
- Somatic Awareness: Next, we will help you recognize and respond to trauma-related physical sensations as well as the body’s innate way of soothing and regulating.
- Attachment Focus: Taking an attachment focus can help you address and heal early relational wounds. This step is intertwined with the next phase (Desensitization and Reprocessing).
- Desensitization and Reprocessing: This aspect of EMDR therapy can help you process traumatic memories through guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation (example: butterfly tapping), integrating somatic and attachment elements into the healing process.
- Integration: At the end of treatment, you will learn to integrate and consolidate processed memories for emotional relief and insight.
Overall, S.A.F.E EMDR therapy reduces trauma symptoms, improves emotional regulation, heals attachment wounds, and enhances body-mind awareness, aiding in holistic healing.
This method excels where others may not by integrating somatic awareness and attachment healing with traditional EMDR. It’s tailored for complex trauma since it focuses on physical and relational aspects of trauma often missed in standard therapies.
Enhanced safety measures prevent retraumatization, making S.A.F.E. EMDR suitable for those who find other therapies too intense. By addressing both body and mind, it offers a holistic path to healing, particularly effective for deep-rooted, multifaceted trauma issues
Clients will be able to:
- Develop skills to manage intense feelings.
- Understand their body and how it signals to them when something is wrong and when something is right.
- Transform the pain of past traumas into a narrative of resilience.
- Address issues from disrupted early relationships, fostering healthier future relationships.
- Create and integrate strategies for emotional stability and healing.
- Develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their reactions to stress or trauma.
Cara Luckey is currently the only therapist at Somatic Therapy Partners that provides EMDR therapy at this time. S.A.F.E. EMDR is a gentle, direct, effective, and efficient way to address complex trauma and PTSD. It allows us to get to the root of current presenting problems quickly.
Many people wonder if EMDR can help them heal from events they’ve “blocked out,” and the answer is YES! Additionally, we can do trauma work without the need to “re-tell” the difficult memories, which is often a part of therapy many people dread. Clients typically feel a sense of relief knowing that we can resolve the effects of trauma without verbally rehearsing it.
If you are currently struggling with unprocessed trauma, or trauma that you feel you’ve processed in some ways but still seems to be affecting you, and you want to give S.A.F.E. EMDR therapy a try, call Somatic Therapy Partners at (720) 798-4064 and set up a consult call with Cara Luckey. She offers both in-person and online services.