Updated: Oct 2
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR), is an effective form of psychotherapy in which bilateral stimulation is used to help clients process traumatic memories and emotions. CMHA defines trauma as the lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event. Experiencing a traumatic event can harm a person's sense of safety, sense of self and their ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships. Past memories and emotions can affect the present significantly. Over the course of multiple therapy sessions, a registered therapist guides the client through the eight phases of EMDR.
As EMDR gained more popularity and recognition in successful therapeutic interventions, many benefits of the therapeutic methods have been illuminated that may be surprising. EMDR therapy is based on the idea that challenging thoughts, feelings and behaviours are the result of unprocessed memories. Listed below are some of the most surprising benefits of EMDR therapy.
EMDR Encourages Communication
Traumatic experiences tend to silence a person inward, as a learned response to dealing with the threat of reliving traumatic events. This is especially true for those who feel that communicating their traumatic experience will result in them being judged, targeted or perceived as a burden.
EMDR encourages clients to communicate these experiences to a therapist without a lot of detail and enables them to explore their body sensations, thoughts and feelings related to past experiences. This provides true healing as the brain reprocesses past traumatic events while the person is calm, safe and rational in the EMDR session. Clients may become empowered by knowing that they are survivors and feel supported through safe, healthy connection.
EMDR Reshapes Past Events
EMDR began by helping people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR helps build connections between the physical body and the mind. As traumatic events are broken down with a therapist during sessions, clients can take a step back and interpret events differently and consider what occurred in a new, adaptive way.
Creating a new lens to view past events can be as life altering as the traumatic events. This provides clients control over their current life adaptations that their trauma created. Understanding how trauma effects daily life can help reduce symptoms related to PTSD and remove the intensity of past experiences.
EMDR Enables Relationships to Improve
Tapping into traumatic memories and processing them with a therapist can be challenging. However, the benefits of reprocessing target memories can result in clients viewing things differently. Opening back up after experiencing the EMDR therapy process can lead to significant life changes.
Relationships and boundaries may change for the better. Surprisingly, there may be increased optimism and emotional incentive to relate differently with others. Increased self-worth may lead to changes in how a client interacts with other people as they express their viewpoints more openly and assert boundaries more effectively. While some relationships can be improved, others are better left at their stuck point whilst moving on as exiting unhealthy relationships as the best outcome for continued growth.
Clients no longer identify as being a burden and are no longer consumed with the idea that limits are destined to be breached. This sparks a desire for higher expectations results in clients setting realistic, achievable boundaries. EMDR helps clients find new understanding, clarity, happiness and balance.
Changes Reacting to Rationale Response
EMDR treats different conditions tied to panic or anxiety. Working through traumatic events and stress responses gives clients the perspective needed to resist reacting and instead create rationale. Trauma triggers such as noises or smells that would have led to re-experiencing a trauma can now lead to minimizing the reaction and being able to examine the real safety threat from the stimuli. Essentially when the brain and body’s survival instinct (i.e. fight, flight, or freeze) is triggered, the reaction overpowers any rational thought or response.
Rather than allowing anxiety and survival instincts to kick in, EMDR can help desensitize. The freedom to face life’s challenges with less grief, pessimism, depression and anxiety improves the quality of life. Thus, EMDR therapy benefits include providing the ability to stay more present and engaged in everyday challenges.
Acceptance Creates Mental Strength
Getting stronger leads to a deeper exploration of identity, self-worth and the internal narratives that become the life story lived each day. EMDR and guided therapeutic processing provides a calm, safe environment to learn how to accept the past and move forward confidently. EMDR enables clients to feel more powerful and optimistic as they face challenges that kept them from feeling their best.
Acknowledging the past in a new way and coming to terms with acceptance, the mental strength and clarity gained prevents traumatic memories from being the repetitive, intrusive mental bullies that they have become (i.e. maladaptive thoughts including “I’m unlovable, I don’t matter, It’s my fault”). Overcoming these mental bullies can allow clients to perceive things differently and subsequently leave the past in the past.
The discomfort connected to the past will lose its power to sneak up and destroy perfectly good days and sabotage relationships. Being aware of the past without leading to a sudden reaction can be empowering. No longer living with debilitating anxiety or panic provides empowerment to face uncertainty with courage and resilience.
The Brain’s Ability to Heal and Remember
A common EMDR therapy benefit is more accessible memories and an active dream state. EMDR therapy may awaken the brain, stimulating access to vivid detailed memory and REM sleep. Many EMDR clients report clear memories of their childhood including sights, smells and sensations, all lost prior to therapy intervention.
Dreams and REM state can also be affected by making dreams feel real and often tapping into memories of relationships and experiences. The content in the new dreams can then be explored and used for increasing self-awareness. With triggering different dreams and REM sleep changes, clients also realize the power of the brain’s ability to heal itself. The brain can update old, negative perceptions with positive resolutions. The brain can heal and change in real time. With the brain’s ability to heal itself and update, EMDR seems to offer timely, long term outcomes. This benefits those who are struggling with the effects of PTSD, anxiety, panic, depression, fear and pessimism as living day-to-day without relief can be crippling.
EMDR therapy can improve the lives of those who utilize it in therapy. The greatest benefit being the improvement of the lives of people who were negatively affected by mental triggers. As with any therapy, the benefits that a client sees will be reflective of the effort they invest.
Are you looking for a registered therapist in BC who incorporates EMDR as a therapeutic intervention? Sally-Anne, the owner and founder of www.MentalBlocks.net, has been using EMDR to help clients process traumatic events successfully and subsequently empower them as they experience healthier, happier lives. Sally-Anne welcomes you to contact her through her website here or by email at email@example.com if you have any questions, concerns or comments.