IS EMDR THERAPY GOING TO WORK FOR YOU?
The short answer is: I don’t know because I don’t know you. There are no lab tests that can show if EMDR Therapy can help you. For most people, EMDR can help, but before you jump into starting treatment, there are a few important things you need to know.
FIRST THINGS FIRST – IT CAN FEEL WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER
For some people, the initial phases of therapy can result in temporary worsening of symptoms. People can get more depressed, nightmares can increase and anxiety may feel more intense.
Even if your symptoms temporarily get worse, you are likely to benefit if you continue your EMDR therapy. Worsening of symptoms can be scary and sometimes leads to people leaving therapy prematurely.
Make sure you understand that EMDR therapy can start with a temporary increase in depression, anxiety, or trauma-related symptoms. Discuss it with your therapist. You should be ready for this possibility. The more you prepare for it – the better your chances are to benefit from your EMDR treatment.
Your brain contains a system that has evolved to help you transform disturbance into a state of stability. EMDR therapists call it – adaptive resolution – a natural way to resolve stressful situations and disturbing life events.
At some point, while experiencing a traumatic or disturbing event, this adaptive information processing (AIP) system stopped functioning. In a way, it’s similar to people with hemophilia – a condition in which the blood-clotting system stops working and a person can bleed for hours as a result of having a superficial cut.
When your AIP system doesn’t work – you are not able to learn from the past. The past becomes the present and some events from the past keep triggering your day to day life. When the AIP system works, it helps your brain to register the past events in the past.
Consider an argument you had with a coworker or a supervisor that made you upset. In the moment, you may have experienced some anger and agitation. Your blood pressure and heart rate went through the roof, and you lost your ability to focus on your work.
But then you went home. You talked about it with your partner or called a friend. You wrote about it in your journal, thought about it, noticed your emotions and maybe even dreamed about it at night.
You woke up the next morning and what happened at work was not that disturbing anymore. At least it wasn’t as bad as it was the day before. Reminding yourself that your coworker had some problems with other people helped. You were able to recognize that it’s not all about you. Thanks to your adaptive information processing (AIP) system – you were able to let it go.
EMDR HELPS THE AIP SYSTEM TO DO ITS JOB
If your AIP system has been affected by trauma or disturbing life events – this is what got you stuck. You keep living these moments of trauma or disturbance. You experience depression or anxiety, and sometimes you may have nightmares or flashbacks. You want to move on but you can’t. Your brain is stuck in the past.
EMDR therapy helps with processing disturbing events that happened in the past. It helps to activate the adaptive information processing. Since all of us have this built-in system, chances are you will benefit from EMDR therapy.
Rewiring your brain will help you keep the past in the past.
Rotem Brayer is a certified EMDR therapist and an EMDR consultant in training practicing in Denver, Colorado. He divides his time between helping refugees to improve their mental health and maintaining a private practice.
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