Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative modality of psychotherapy that has been used extensively in helping clients heal from the impact of traumatic experience. EMDR draws on elements of many different treatment approaches. It can be easily woven into and integrated with a more traditional therapeutic approach or used as the centerpiece of therapy.
What types of issues does EMDR treat?
EMDR is especially effective in the treatment of trauma and posttraumatic stress. It is used to treat the unresolved experiential aspect of psychological distress, and can address the following conditions:
- panic attacks
- complicated grief
- disturbing memories
- performance anxiety
- stress reduction
- poor self-esteem
- eating disorders
- dissociative disorders
- pain disorders
- sexual and/or physical abuse
Somatic EMDR goes beyond traditional EMDR to further integrate the body into the therapeutic process (Somatic, from the Greek word “soma,” for body). By paying special attention to the nervous system and a “workable” range of nervous system activation, it is possible to support the body in resolving previously unprocessed experience, leaving the client free of the chains of the past.
Why the Body?
We experience our lives cognitively, emotionally, and physically. While traditional therapies are primarily cognitive in nature, talking about our experience in order to gain insight and ascribe meaning, it is now more widely recognized that the body is of primary importance in the healing process. Bessel Van der Kolk, a foremost expert in the field of trauma, describes trauma as a breakdown in the body such that it continues stuck in responses of the past, responding to the world as if it is dangerous.
This “stuckness” is a function of a nervous system that has gotten bogged down with unprocessed experience. The nervous system is the part of us that responds to internal and external stimuli, ramping up in danger, calming when the danger has passed. Nervous system arousal allows us to deal with the realities of life. Ideally, levels of arousal in the nervous system are matched to actual stressors, intensifying and calming accordingly. When our nervous system has been unable to follow a response through to completion, it gets stuck resulting in unhealthy patterns of behavior and emotion.
In our work together, we will pay special attention to the nervous system as it expresses itself through sensation in the body, in order to facilitate the working through of unresolved traumas and negative experiences.