A traumatic event is any experience that is too overwhelming for the brain to process. The upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions from the experience continue to disturb you long after it’s done. It’s as if you’re frozen in time—every time something reminds you of your trauma, you feel like the event is still happening.
EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, is an approach to therapy that helps the brain process traumatic memories and allows normal healing to resume. The brain has a natural ability to recover from trauma—EMDR taps into this ability. It takes the emotional charge out of traumatic memories so that you can remember what happened without feeling upset or overwhelmed. This way, you can stop living in the past and feel more at peace with the present.
EMDR therapy was initially developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Today, it is widely recognized as the premiere approach to trauma therapy. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend it for trauma treatment.
At Darcy Bailey & Associates Counselling, we have successfully treated children and adults of all ages with EMDR. The approach can help people who’ve experienced assault, car accidents, natural disasters, grief and loss, and many other forms of trauma.
Additionally, we often use EMDR therapy to reduce fears related to performance anxiety. After all, most performance anxiety is rooted in trauma—if someone messes up in a sports game or at a music recital, that experience can psychologically affect their ability to perform well later on. EMDR has the ability to resolve their fears so that they can return to optimal performance levels.
For new clients, we know there’s nothing more laborious than talking through your entire history at the beginning of counselling. That’s why we like to get right down to what matters. After a brief assessment of your symptoms, we’ll give you skills and resources that you can use when you’re processing traumatic memories. This way, you’ll have the tools to stay calm and grounded during trauma therapy. These tools are also very practical and can positively impact your day-to-day wellness.
From there, you and your therapist will begin the EMDR work. They’ll walk you through a series of bilateral stimulation techniques while you recall the key events and related distressing memories. These techniques can include tapping, moving your eyes from side to side, and other forms of visual and audio stimulation. As you do these practices, the memories will be reprocessed and become less emotionally painful. The goal is for the thoughts and feelings associated with your trauma to be neutralised—you’ll be able to remember your experience without feeling traumatised.
Looked at another way, EMDR allows your brain and body to “digest” traumatic memories so that they can be processed just like the rest of your memories. It helps you respond to trauma instead of reacting. You can engage with your environment with less anxiety and more presence of mind.
Yes, we do! For children, we typically combine EMDR with other child-friendly approaches to counselling, such as play therapy and art therapy. After all, most kids don’t want to sit in a chair and talk for long stretches of time. That’s why we make therapy fun and engaging for them.
Our therapists can also support parents from a trauma-informed perspective. If your child is in EMDR therapy, we can help you understand how to better assist them in day-to-day life. We’ll talk to you about what’s helpful and not helpful and give you strategies for supporting your child with compassion and understanding.
Talking about trauma is hard. Oftentimes, it can even make your trauma more upsetting and overwhelming. The great thing about EMDR is that it doesn’t require you to discuss your traumatic experience, even though you still need to recall it and think about it. You can share as little as you want. The bilateral stimulation exercises get right to the core of your traumatic stress and allow your brain to release long-held emotional pain.
What’s more, EMDR follows a very structured format and usually doesn’t take as long as most forms of therapy. Clients should be able to commit to a series of sessions so that there is consistency supporting their progress; on average, they should commit to about six to eight sessions. Although EMDR is not a one-time solution, most clients begin to feel some relief after just a few sessions of bilateral stimulation.
In the end, EMDR is simply the most complete and research-based approach to trauma therapy out there. It can help you change your thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, letting you experience life in a new way.
In addition to being certified EMDR practitioners, several of our counsellors have experienced EMDR as clients. We can attest to its healing power in our lives and that’s why we’re so passionate about using it with clients.