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EMDR: Resolve Painful Experiences without Reliving Them

Spotlight on Mental Health

By Megan Harshbarger

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Visitors to Center for Spirituality and Healing or those who read our newsletter may know that the Center has counseling services in its wellness center, but may have only a vague idea of what it is offered. To promote a better understanding of the many services offered at the Center, this is the second in a series of articles will cover the different therapies available for those seeking or considering mental health services.

The Wellness Center at the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality & Healing offers EMDR therapy as one of many different avenues for the healing process. This article will serve to explore the possibility of “getting past the past” with a therapeutic process known as EMDR. Kathleen Morgan is a full-time licensed therapist who offers EMDR therapy as one of her services.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR stands for “eye movement desensitization and reprocessing” and has been approved as a valid and effective treatment for trauma by a wide range of organizations including the American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. More than a set of “techniques,” the EMDR approach provides a model for understanding human potential that does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR is a natural process that uses positive experiences to support adaptive living.

In EMDR therapy, the client and the therapist work together to help move blocks caused by traumatic experiences so the client can return to their natural grounded state of being. Receiving closure to unfinished emotional trauma is essential to achieving health, both psychological and physical. Research studies show that EMDR is very effective in helping people process emotionally painful and traumatic experiences that he/she have not yet been able to talk about. An EMDR session improves the client’s ability to freely and openly talk about their experience, facilitating their ability to consciously let go of negative memories that keep them from living a full and happy life.

What Does an EMDR Therapist Do?

Through the guidance of an EMDR trained therapist, patient's use their own rapid, rhythmic eye movements in a structured eight-step approach to address the past, present, and future aspects of a traumatic or distressing memory.

Why use EMDR Therapy?

EMDR sessions work relatively fast, and difficult memories can be processed in less time than traditional therapies, which often focus on memories from the unconscious mind and which are then analyzed for their meaning to gain insight into the problem. EMDR short-cuts this process and goes right into the releasing stage of emotions.

Studies consistently show that treatment with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotional block. The memory remains but the negative response is neutralized. The short-term benefits of EMDR can include immediate relief of emotional distress. The long-term benefits of EMDR therapy include the return of free- flowing emotional processing which brings a greater sense of stability and personal power, more rewarding relationships and a more peaceful life.

Who is EMDR Therapy For?

There are several factors to consider when evaluating the appropriateness of EMDR therapy for a client's particular situation and history. During the initial consultation with a trained EMDR therapist, all the relevant factors will be discussed and a mutual decision is made to move forward with EMDR or not.

EMDR is the most effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) as shown by extensive scientific research studies. In general though, a good candidate for the EMDR technique has any of the symptoms of trauma, or may have experienced sexual or physical assault, combat, a traumatic accident, or the sudden death of a loved one.

What to Expect?

The therapist works gently with the client and asks him/her to revisit the traumatic moment or incident, recalling feelings surrounding the experience, as well as any negative thoughts, feelings and memories. The therapist then uses hand movements on which the client focuses their eyes. The information processing part of the brain is stimulated and the more intensely the client focuses on the memory, the easier it becomes for the memory to come to life. The memory can then be transformed into an adaptive learning experience as the images arise during the therapy session. These images, which harbor the painful feelings, can be exchanged for more peaceful, loving and resolved feelings, resulting in increased insight about the disturbing event as well any negative thoughts about the self. The negative emotions, physical sensations and beliefs can be discarded and a more positive sense of self can emerge.

A person who feels stuck emotionally, in relationships or even professional may consider addressing the problem with EMDR therapy. Ultimately, the goal is to be liberated from the confines of the past into a happy and productive present and a fulfilling future.

Kathleen Morgan is a full-time Registered Art Therapist and Licensed Practicing Counselor who is available through referrals or by simply calling for an appointment. Kathy is trained in both therapy and art, and has studied and mastered both psychology and human development, having received a Master’s Degree from Mount Mary College in 2006. She has been providing services at the Center for four years.

For more information on mental health services at the Center or to schedule an appointment, please call Kathy at 414-708-4388.

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