Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was initially developed as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but has since proven effective in addressing a range of anxiety-related issues. The therapy involves a structured eight-phase approach, incorporating bilateral stimulation, which can include guided eye movements, tapping, or auditory cues. As a counselor and as a client, I've found it to be highly effective for any type of trauma, reducing the intensity of memories, thought patterns and creating more safety, less anxiety, agitation and fear in the body. Below we will go over the process of EMDR for anxiety.
Targeting Traumatic Memories:
At the core of EMDR is the concept of processing distressing memories and transforming them into more adaptive and less distressing forms. By identifying and targeting specific memories that contribute to anxiety, individuals can work towards reprocessing these memories and reducing their emotional charge.
The use of bilateral stimulation is a distinctive aspect of EMDR. This technique involves engaging the brain's left and right hemispheres alternately, promoting communication and integration. This process can lead to a desensitization of the emotional impact of traumatic memories, making them more manageable. In session, I offer a few different ways to for bilateral stimulation. A client can tap on their knees or shoulders, follow the counselor’s hands back and forth, or use devices specifically for the EMDR that provide bilateral stimulation.
Adaptive Information Processing:
EMDR aims to stimulate the brain's adaptive information processing (AIP) mechanisms. Through guided eye movements or other bilateral stimulation techniques, individuals are encouraged to engage in free association, allowing the brain to reorganize and make new connections. This process can contribute to a more balanced and less anxiety-inducing perspective on past events. Clients should work with trained and certified EMDR counselors to create safety and assistance when needed.
Building Coping Mechanisms:
EMDR is not just about processing traumatic memories; it also involves strengthening an individual's ability to cope with stressors. Counselors work with clients to identify and reinforce positive beliefs and coping mechanisms, fostering resilience and reducing anxiety in the face of future challenges. Once anxiety and other memories feel less intense, stronger memories and resources can come up and be strengthened.
Individualized Treatment Plans:
One of the strengths of EMDR is its adaptability. Counselors tailor treatment plans to suit the unique needs of each individual. This personalized approach allows for a targeted focus on specific anxiety triggers, ensuring a more effective and efficient therapeutic process. Treatment plans can also be transferred to other trained and certified counselors to continue work that’s been started and needs to be completed.
Change Can Happen Quickly:
One of the many benefits of EMDR is that change can happen more quickly in a shorter amount of time than traditional talk therapy. Having a week or two in between sessions can allow clients to observe subtle and noticeable differences in their responses to situations, somatic complaints and shifts in emotions. Asking a loved one to observe shifts and changes can be helpful feedback that one may not notice on their own. With changes it can also take time to get used to having less anxiety. It's important to keep in mind that a reduction of anxiety may feel unusual and unfamiliar, albeit healthier. Having a solid support system and talking to the counselor about what the client is helpful and can normalize the experience.
As anxiety continues to affect countless individuals, exploring innovative and evidence-based therapeutic approaches is crucial. EMDR offers a promising avenue for reducing anxiety by targeting the roots of distressing memories, promoting adaptive information processing, and building resilient coping mechanisms. By understanding the transformative power of EMDR, individuals can take a significant step towards a calmer and more balanced life. Tiffany Lowther is certified in EMDR, with over a decade of training and clinical experience. Reach out today if interested in learning more and to schedule a session.
To learn more about EMDR, visit EMDRIA.org
Lowther Counseling Services, www.LowtherCS.com, 2024