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EMDR and how it helps clients work through trauma

August 10th, 2022 Blog

by Steven Neely, Clinical Director of Therapists

At Mercy, our therapists utilize evidenced-based, trauma treatment modalities in helping our clients work through trauma. We have therapists that are trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing), Brainspotting, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems and the ARC (Attachment, Self-Regulation, and Competency) Trauma Model.

Over the past 20 years, I have received training in each of these modalities. It wasn’t until I received training in EMDR, developed by Francine Shapiro, that I really saw how one can quickly work through and heal from trauma.

Rapid eye movement, REM sleep plays a pivotal role in processing emotional events. Essentially, EMDR mimics REM sleep. When we go to sleep, our eyes move rapidly left to right, processing. Shapiro’s theory is that some traumatic memories do not get fully reprocessed while we sleep. An EMDR therapist can help a client reprocess a traumatic memory, while awake sitting in a comfortable therapy office.

Once a client goes through the first 3 phases of EMDR,

Phase 1: History-taking

Phase 2: Preparing the Client – talking through the process and treatment plan.

Phase 3: Assessing the target memory,

an EMDR therapist will move to Phase 4, called Desensitization. In this phase, the disturbing event is evaluated rationally to change the way the brain associates trauma with its trigger.

The therapist will ask the client to bring up a memory that is causing a disturbance. Through a series of questions, the therapist will eventually direct the client to begin lateral eye movements using their fingers in front of the client’s eyes or by following a light moving left and right from a light bar. The therapist may use a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation.

By reprocessing traumatic memories or distressing events through EMDR, a client can reach a place where they are no longer disturbed by the memory. A client can feel better and feel less triggered from past trauma(s). EMDR is truly an amazing therapy. How God designed the human body is truly amazing!

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