Francine Shapiro developed Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) in 1987, after observing that the mind can heal itself during rapid eye movement or REM sleep. I have used it in my Art Therapy practice to work successfully with trauma, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety and a host of other health problems.
When we are traumized the memory and emotions of the event can become “frozen” in our brain, in a "raw" and emotional form, rather than in a verbal more fluid and flowing “story” mode. This becomes an isolated memory network with its own emotions and physical sensations disconnected from the brain’s cortex. Whenever we experience similar events that remind us of the ogrinal traumatic event, we re-experience the thoughts and emotions frozen in our limbic system from the trauma. It is hard to live in the present moment. Often you feel cloudy, confused and afraid without always knowing why. EMDR helps create the connections between your brain’s memory networks, enabling your brain to process the traumatic memory in a very natural way.
I use a small machine, which has hand pulsars. First you determine how fast and strong you want the pulsars and then we work with reframing the feelings and messages that you have frozen in your body from your trauma. There is a prodigal that I use for this work.
With repeated sets of using the pulsars, the memory tends to change in such a way that it loses its painful intensity and simply becomes a neutral memory of an event in the past. Other associated memories may also heal at the same time. This linking of related memories can lead to a dramatic and rapid improvement in many aspects of your life.
I also use the pulsars to help core feelings of relaxation, healthy self-images, and safety images. The bilatel stimulation felt in the body through the hands helps positive thoughts and feelings to fully and strongly anchor in the felt sense of the body. The client is in complete control of the session and usually they feel empowered, alert and very present after a session. Reprocessing is experienced as something that happens spontaneously, and new connections and insights are felt to arise quite naturally from within. As a result, most people experience EMDR as being a natural and very empowering therapy.
There is a lot of research that validates the reliability of EMDR. (Details on http://www.emdrcanada.org/en/home.aspx and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective treatment for PTSD.
EMDR can easily and safety combined with Art Therapy. You can paint or draw your felt sense, new feelings of safety or relaxation. When I am working with trauma, I use EMDR during Stage Two of my Trauma Resolution work to help process the trauma memories and install new images that fit the clients present life.
If you are interested in EMDR, ask your therapist if they are trained in this method, and if not find one who is. For most people, this is a valuable healing tool.