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Trauma: What is EMDR?

EMDR is a form of trauma treatment, that helps to process difficult memories, and desensitize feelings that go with those memories. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, it was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the eighties, and has become the gold standard for trauma/ PTSD treatment.

EMDR targets the difficult or disturbing memories that are stored in the limbic system of the brain, helps the individual process it, and desensitize any difficult emotions associated with the memories. We can do this several ways, rapid eye movement, hand tappers that gently alternate buzzing in your left hand then right, and we also can do alternating beeps with headphones. The client has the choice to choose which method feels the most comfortable to them. EMDR has 8 phase of treatment:

Phase 1:The clinician starts by gathering detailed history, and together the clinician and client identify possible targets to process. The targets can be childhood events or recents traumas that may have occurred.

Phase 2: During the second phase, the clinician teaches the client different ways to handle emotional stress, that may come up for them.

Phases 3-6: In this phase, the target is identified, and several parts of the target are explored. The image related to the memory that represents the worst part of the event is identified. In addition, a negative cognition, or negative belief about themselves is examined. This is usually a belief that intellectually the client knows is not true, but they still feel this way. Emotions that are related to the image and negative belief are explored, as well as a positive cognition (how you prefer to view the event). At this point body sensations are also explored, to see where the body may be holding onto feelings and emotions related to the target/trauma.

The clinician then has the client focus on the image, feel the body sensation, and think of the negative belief while receiving bilateral stimulation (eye movements, sounds or hand tappers).In between sets of bilateral stimulation the clinician asks the client, 'What comes up for you"? The client gives a brief highlight of what occurred, and then a new set begins. This continues until the client no longer feels distress about the target, or the session has come to an end. If the target has not been fully processed, then it is an incomplete session, and will be worked on at the next session.

Phase 7: In phase 7, the clinician closes the session down, and encourages the client to log anything that may come up related to the target, to be discussed at the next session.

Phase 8: Phase 8 occurs at the beginning of the next session where progress is discussed, client log is discussed and any questions the client may have are answered. Phase 3-6 are repeated until the client reports no distress.

I have had the opportunity to witness thousands of individuals get their life back and truly heal. Many believed that they would have to live with the trauma for the rest of their life, and could not imagine a world where it could be healed. I am here to tell you, and encourage you to explore what EMDR can do for you. It will change your life!

If you or someone you know has experienced trauma, and are ready to explore EMDR, please feel free to give me a call, and we can work together on finding the treatment option that works best for you.

Call to schedule an appointment at 615-982-5710

Ginger Poag, MSW, LCSW

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