I’m excited to let you all know that I will be attending conferences in Texas this coming April and August to become certified in EMDR! You might not know what EMDR is, and it might sound odd at first, but let me tell you…. this skill changes lives! It works like this;
Say during your day you stub your toe AND Justin Bieber eggs your house. Not a good day, right? During your sleep that night, specifically during REM sleep, your brain will process these events and memories from the day, keeping the good information that can be used later and discarding all the other useless stuff. In the morning you jump out of bed, alert and excited to take on a new day. Your head is clearer: You decide not to stub your toe on the wall today (they’re so bad about staying still!), and you have also spontaneously decided its time to move. Good choice.
Now lets say that on the next day, sadly, the IRS decides to audit you, you’re summoned for jury duty, AND you get hit by a drunk driver and take a trip to the hospital. Wow. I think I’d rather have dinner with Justin Bieber. Anyway, that is a LOT of trauma for one day! Your brain does its best to process it all during your REM sleep that night, but it is just too much. Your brain got overwhelmed, and was unable to finish the job. Instead of being processed, keeping whats useful and discarding the rest, some of those traumatic memories got physically lodged in your brain in a place that they are not suppose to be! It doesn’t take a car accident or Justin Bieber to overwhelm the brain and cause it to leave things unprocessed,.. it could be any number of things! For example; being teased in school, Dad not giving us attention, verbal, sexual, or physical abuse, memory of parents fighting, being called names, or fear of not fitting in. It could also be things from a divorce, a death, an argument, or any recent or past traumatic event. Any one of these negative memories could be stored in your brain in a place that it is not suppose to be, enabling you at times to act out of the insecurity or fear or trauma that you might have felt from that past memory. We might not be aware of it, but we may subconsciously act in the present out of the hurt and the trauma from our past.
“But Jake, I was only teased in the 3rd grade. I’m over it!” True, you might be. But its important to not minimize what you felt back then. Whats a big deal (trauma) to your 3rd grade self might not be a big deal (traumatic) to your adult self, but that makes no difference to the memories that are still stuck in your brain since the 3rd grade. The past can effect your present in ways unimagined!
In EMDR Therapy, the clinician uses any number of techniques to jump start the mechanism in our brain that processes memories during REM sleep. This can be having you rapidly move your eyes back and forth (as you do during REM sleep) utilizing a light bar or the clinicians fingers, tapping on alternate shoulders or knees, listening to tones that alternate between right and left, or holding tappers in your hands that vibrate alternately. Using any of these techniques that are most comfortable for you jump starts the communication and the processing that takes place between your right and left brain during REM sleep. While doing this, being completely aware and awake, the clinician guides you to target the memories that you would like to be processed, often called Touchstone Memories. These are the ones that are the source of our trauma or false beliefs about ourselves. Targeting these memories while stimulating your right and left brain causes them to become processed as they should have been during sleep. Clients often report, after an adequate amount processing, that the anxiety they felt while thinking about their particular memories goes from a 9 or 10 to a 1 or 2! Clients have noticed these significant changes in as little as one session, but often take 3-4, or more depending on the severity of the trauma.
It sounds too good to be true, but there is a very significant amount of clinical and scientific research compiled over decades that validates the process and effects of EMDR. For more, you can check out http://www.emdr.com/general-information/what-is-emdr.html.
Here is a video that gives a better idea of what EMDR looks like and how it works: Client-Session (You can skip to 4:00 minutes to skip the story and learn about EMDR)
I’m very excited to begin using this skill (under supervision) after the first training in April, and I will be fully certified by mid August, 2014!
Hope you’re all doing well! As always, feel free to call or email if you would like to consult or schedule a session!
Jake Voelker MA., LMFT