EMDR Therapy: Contact with Traumatic Memories

EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, has recently become an increasingly popular form of therapy. In 1987, Dr. EMDR was born when Francine Shapiro accidentally discovered that rapid eye movements can reduce the effect of disturbing thoughts.

This method is based on the Adaptive Computing model. According to this theory, our brain receives and processes thoughts, sensations, feelings about an experience and scenes related to that experience as information. As a result of this process, experiences form memory networks in our minds. Over time, these experiences turn into memories, and memories turn into learning processes. However, from time to time, some malfunctions occur in this system and memories cannot be processed properly. So, how do we know if there is a problem with this mechanism?

There are great traumas that shake our mental health, from natural disasters to accidents, from attacks on sexual integrity to wars. In addition to these, many disturbing events that we experience in our daily life and that cause us distress can happen to us. Such negative experiences, in a way, cause malfunctions in the system, leading to disruption of the information processing process. Thus, parts of an experience such as sensations, thoughts and feelings cannot be integrated into other memory networks by freezing in time. Thus, some situations that we encounter in our daily life trigger these memories and disturb us – we feel as if we are living that moment again.

That’s where EMDR gets this machine working properly: it accesses and reprocesses traumatic memories. As the wheels work, negative beliefs, uncomfortable body sensations and negative emotions created by traumatic memories are dissolved one by one. Thus, the information is processed again in a healthy way, giving the person a new learning and perspective. Memories or experiences are unforgettable; however, the response to this event varies.

What’s going on in the session room? EMDR; It feeds on the past, present and future. We start with past memories, see present symptoms, and develop functional behaviors about similar situations that may occur in the future. At this point, we give stimuli with eye movements, right and left sides of the body, tactile or auditory stimuli so that both ears can hear, with a technique called “depersonalization”. Our goal is to reprocess memories by providing a transition between the two hemispheres of the brain.

Take, for example, a client who recently came to therapy because she forgot what to say because of tension during a job interview. He has a negative belief that “I am incompetent”, negative emotions such as “fear, anxiety” and bodily sensations such as “shaking hands, nausea, dizziness”. These constitute the symptoms, not the problem itself. EMDR finds a kind of radical solution by finding the basic memories on which this negative belief is based.

Who can benefit from EMDR therapy? According to the studies; EMDR therapy is effective in many psychological problems, from anxiety disorders to depression, from eating disorders to grief and loss problems. There have been many studies in which EMDR has been beneficial, especially for stressful or traumatic events.

In addition to all these, we can state that EMDR does not erase any memories or that it is not a method of hypnosis. EMDR therapy is a therapeutic method given by psychologists who have completed their training.

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