For PTSD treatment, EMDR could mean less pain, faster gain

BEHAVIORAL HEALTHCARE

September 21, 2012
By Shannon Brys, Associate Editor

EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a treatment approach that, according to the EMDR Institute’s website, “has been empirically validated in over 24 randomized studies of trauma victims.” In many cases, EMDR is effective in treating PTSD and related problems that arise from experiences and resulting memories so traumatic, life-threatening, or horrifying that they “get stuck,” defying the brain’s normal memory-processing functions and wreaking emotional havoc in the lives of PTSD victims.

“Every experience we’re having is changing the brain in some way. The past remains for the person,” explains Francine Shapiro, PhD, the psychologist who developed EMDR and today serves as executive director of the EMDR Institute (Watsonville, CA). While remembering the past is good when it comes to positive memories—happy events, education and work experiences, life milestones—it can be a negative for traumatic memories.  Sometimes, the memory of traumatic events overwhelms the brain’s routine process of memory consolidation and storage causing the memory—and all of its frightening, horrible, and sensitive emotional triggers—to get “stuck” in the brain.

Shapiro says that people who suffer PTSD or related problems typically struggle to “get past” one of three different types of “stuck” memories. She summarizes the dominant themes of these memories as:

·        “I’m not good enough.”
·        “I’m not safe.”
·        “I’m not in control.”

One common example includes situations like the ongoing recession, when people lose jobs and may experience all of these feelings.  Another all-too-common example involves members of the military who face the constant threat of near-instant death or serious injury.

When a client has a stuck memory, PTSD is often the result. That’s where EMDR comes in.  The treatment helps to process bad or traumatic memories in a more normal way.

The full article may be found here.

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