Beth Apfelbaum, MFT
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It refers to a therapeutic process proven through many studies to reduce the effects of trauma for up to 90% of the clients who use it.
EMDR originally was developed and used to help clients heal from prolonged trauma, such as abuse, or single-incident trauma, such as rape or a car accident. Research shows that EMDR is extremely effective in these cases, helping people dissolve the emotional charge from the story or memory associated with their distress.
EMDR was originally administered by directing a client’s eyes back and forth to stimulate the two hemispheres of the brain. Now, however, therapists use a number of methods to activate both the right and left sides of the body to produce the same effects. This is commonly referred to as bilateral stimulation.
I’ve been using EMDR in my virtual sessions with clients via a simple and effective video program—with great success.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
EMDR in My Practice
The most important thing I can say about EMDR is this—I am truly awed by its effects. I incorporated EMDR into my practice because in all my years of study I haven’t seen its power equaled by any other method.
When I began using EMDR as a therapist 20 years ago, I watched my clients’ work deepen and grow profoundly. In some ways this wasn’t surprising. I already had witnessed the powerful changes EMDR catalyzed in my own life; my world became larger and more joyful. Moments of distress decreased dramatically, and I experienced a vastness to my spiritual world that I had never known.
While I’ve clearly seen how EMDR produces deep and lasting effects for trauma, I also use it to help my clients deal with everyday issues.
For example, I might spontaneously suggest using EMDR to help deal with a bout of anxiety that comes up during our time together. Rather than set up a dedicated EMDR treatment, I weave it organically and intuitively into our regular sessions. Here too, in these everyday situations, I have found the results of applied EMDR nothing short of profound.
Because I work collaboratively, I like to suggest rather than impose a given method. As with any of my suggestions, you’re always free to accept or decline.
When my clients and I tap into their unconscious using EMDR, they access insight and shifts uncommonly arrived at through other modalities. Instant cognitive breakthroughs are very common.
For example, clients can come in having told the same story of self-doubt, self-criticism or despair for years, and in a single EMDR session, radically shift their view of themselves and their world. This can be incredibly freeing, and can engender leaps of clarity and self-insight.
I’ve seen many “Aha!” moments following EMDR sessions.
On a psychospiritual level, I’ve witnessed clients transform stuck emotions of fear, anger, and rage into compassion, love, and forgiveness, toward themselves and others—even others who had caused them great pain.
Clients commonly use words like “grounded,” “alive,” “joyful,” and “aligned” to describe their experience. Some report a sense of vast openness, or of spaciousness—a feeling of being held by the ground below and the space all around and within us.
Almost everyone says they feel more relaxed.
Theories About Why and How EMDR Works
Although it’s not clear exactly why and how EMDR works, several theories have been advanced. Several published studies have suggested that EMDR:
- Duplicates what the brain does during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep—reprocessing and integrating our experience of events into our consciousness;
Disrupts the intrusive and repetitive focus on particular disturbances associated with traumatic events;
Stimulates the orienting response (a reflexive reaction to new stimuli), which allows us to change perceptions of negative memories and integrate new information;
Unblocks stuck material by regulating phase discrepancies between the brain’s two hemispheres;
Activates the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) of the brain, which connects to both the limbic system (associated with emotions) and the prefrontal cortex (related to cognition). It’s hypothesized that the cognitive brain may help its emotional counterpart to form new ways of understanding traumatic events.
By imparting the feelings of calm I mentioned above, EMDR helps catalyze a major physiological transformation. The rational brain enables the emotional brain to replace distressing emotions and stories—even longstanding ones—with more empowering truths.
If you’d like to experience the power of EMDR for yourself, I’d be pleased to hear from you.
Please call me at (415) 863-2222.
I offer a free and confidential phone consultation.