When we live through trauma or negative learning experiences, our brains process, store, and respond to information in very specific ways that help us survive in the moment. Because of the way painful memories are stored in our brains, we can find ourselves reacting (internally or externally) to present moments in the same ways we did when we lived through the negative experiences. It can feel as though a switch in our brain gets stuck in the “on” position, ready to respond to anything that could be a threat at any time. This can make it difficult for us to feel safe, relaxed, loved, and connected, and can lead to challenges in our relationships with ourselves and others.
A structured therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help manage and heal the impacts of trauma. EMDR helps us change the way negative memories are stored in our brains so that we can relax and react to the present moment without interference from the past.
Believe it or not, EMDR is not hypnosis and even though “eye movement” is in its name, it does not have to include any eye movement at all! EMDR relies on the neuroscience behind bilateral stimulation — which is just a fancy word for any stimulation that crosses over the midline of the body. Some possibilities of bilateral stimulation can include using headphones to listen to music or a tone that alternates back and forth between the ears, crossing your arms over your chest like an X and tapping back and forth on your shoulders, holding your head still while watching a hand or item move back and forth in front of you, or holding small devices that vibrate back and forth in your hands.
Even though EMDR was originally used to treat PTSD, we now know that it can be effective for people with a large range of concerns including trauma, anxiety, relationship issues, etc., so don’t count yourself out even if you don’t consider your experiences traumatic. EMDR can help us gain a sense of awareness, groundedness, and empowerment when we are feeling stuck in old patterns that are not working for us anymore, and almost anyone can benefit from that!
EMDR might be a good fit for you if:
- You have been in counseling and you are seeing limited change despite using all of the tools you have
- You recognize that the past is negatively impacting the present
- You are interested in an approach that is different from traditional talk therapy
- A health professional has specifically recommended EMDR for you
- You’ve heard about someone else’s experiences with EMDR and now you want to try it
- You are experiencing symptoms of trauma
- What you know and what you feel are in conflict; for example, “I know people love me, but I feel like I’m unlovable,” or, “I know I’m safe, but I don’t feel safe.”
EMDR might not be a good fit for you right now if:
- You are experiencing active suicide risk
- You are experiencing active addiction
- You notice high levels of dissociation (feeling detached or disconnected for your body)
- You are experiencing symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions
- You prefer to focus on the present and do not have any interest in exploring how your past experiences have impacted you
Please note that some highly and specifically trained EMDR professionals do work with people who identify with the statements above.
If you’re interested in EMDR and unsure of whether it’s a good fit for you, we encourage you to call or email with questions so you can gather more information to make the best decision for yourself. Please note that we are able to provide EMDR services both in-person and via telehealth.
Contact the Kalamazoo Therapy Group
Call us at (269) 225-5148, or send a message.