COVID-19 NOTICE: In person appointments at our Westside location resume June 1, 2020. Read our full COVID-19 Notice »
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly effective therapy approach for clients suffering from anxiety, trauma, depression and other distressing life events. It is a safe, non-invasive form of therapy with fast results. This treatment directly effects the way our brain processes information, which can become disorganized or stuck after experiencing a trauma. Similar to the processing that occurs in REM sleep, EMDR utilizes eye movement to re-calibrate the nervous system and create connection between the brain’s hemispheres to reprocess traumatic events into less distressing memories.
This powerful short term therapy approach is a very effective treatment for many conditions including:
Maggie is also certified in “The Flash Technique”
This technique is able to reduce the disturbance level of a specific memory, without a client feeling the pain associated with the memory. This type of processing occurs without left brain interference and activation of our conscious defences. By cultivating present observer position, rather than activating and re-experiencing the trauma, clients are able to process a disturbing memory/trauma without feeling distress. The goal of this treatment is transformational, permanent change that produces symptom cessation and non-reactivation from previous triggers. This technique is best used in conjunction with the EMDR protocol, and is especially useful for individuals who dissociate or experience emotional flooding and intense affect due to trauma.
This appointment can be booked online with Maggie Claydon, see below for direct booking link.
The Trauma Response: The body’s normal reactions to abnormal events. These reactions can be experienced by a person involved in the trauma first-hand or a person who has witnessed or heard about the trauma. “Adverse life experiences can generate effects similar to those of traumatic events recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (APA, 2000) for the diagnosis of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trigger or exacerbate a wide range of mental, emotional, somatic, and behavioral disorders” (Shapiro, 2001).
Physical Reactions: Headaches, backaches, stomach aches, sudden sweating, heart palpitations, changes in sleep patterns, appetite, interest in sex, startled easily, more susceptible to colds and illness.
Emotional Reactions: Shock, disbelief, fear, anxiety, grief, disorientation, denial, hyper-alertness/hyper-vigilance, irritability, restlessness, anger, emotional swings such as crying and then laughing, worrying, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of helplessness, panic or being out of control, minimizing the experience, attempts to avoid anything associated with the trauma, isolation, feeling detached, concern over burdening other with problems, emotional numbness, difficulty trusting, lowered self-esteem, feelings of betrayal, difficulty concentrating or remembering, increased use of alcohol, drugs or overeating, self-blame, survivor guilt, shame, decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities, depression, catastrophizing, loss of a sense of order or fairness in the world.
In normal day to day conditions, our mind copes with predictable stress and reflects our emotional and cognitive evaluations of the world around us. The experience of trauma overwhelms our capacity to cope and process our experience as we typically would. So even though a traumatic event has happened in the past, it may be challenging not to feel the emotions and sensations when thinking about the original experience. These negative emotions can also have an effect on how we think of ourselves and impact how we cope with day to day stress.
What does EMDR stand for?
Eye Movement – Alternating bilateral stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain, through auditory, tactile or visual movement.
Desensitization – Removal of the emotional distress attached with a traumatic memory.
Reprocessing – Replacement of unhealthy, negative beliefs associated with traumatic memories, with healthy, positive beliefs.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is an evidence-based form of psychotherapy originally developed in 1989 for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This treatment aims to alleviate a client’s suffering and stabilize mental development. Dr. Shapiro (2001) describes EMDR as a way to let the mind’s own natural healing processes remove blocks. The alternating bilateral stimulation of the brain works to change how an individual thinks and feels about the targeted experiences. “The model on which EMDR is based, Adaptive Information Processing (AIP), posits that much of psychopathology is due to maladaptive encoding and incomplete processing of traumatic or disturbing adverse life experiences. This impairs an individual’s ability to integrate these experiences in an adaptive manner” (Shapiro, 2001). A person may experience flashbacks or a sense of being ‘stuck’ in a moment, which can have long term effects on how they interact with other people and interpret the world. EMDR directly effects the way the brain processes information, so that a person no longer experiences the same cognitive, emotional and physiological reaction when the previously distressing event is brought to mind.
The basic principle of the Adaptive Information Processing model, at the core of EMDR, is that individuals have an inherent nature to process information to produce a state of mental health. Pathology is viewed as impact on the nervous system due to a disturbing early experience that was processed unsuccessfully. Incomplete processing produces a pattern of behaviours, cognitions and emotions that maintain the dysfunction and distress. Through EMDR individuals target sensory information, irrational cognitions, emotional and body responses related to their distressing memories and reprocess these memories using bilateral stimulation. As dysfunctional information is reprocessed, the individual moves toward the desired state of mental health. Some key components of EMDR include mindfulness, non-directive association and the use of traumatic imagery.
Regarding the Adaptive Information Processing model, Dr. Shapiro (2001) states:
“Traumatic events and/or disturbing adverse life experiences can be encoded maladaptively in memory resulting in inadequate or impaired linkage with memory networks containing more adaptive information. Pathology is thought to result when adaptive information processing is impaired by these experiences which are inadequately processed. Information is maladaptively encoded and linked dysfunctionally within emotional, cognitive, somatosensory, and temporal systems. Memories thereby become susceptible to dysfunctional recall with respect to time, place, and context and may be experienced in fragmented form. Accordingly, new information, positive experiences and affects are unable to functionally connect with the disturbing memory. This impairment in linkage and the resultant inadequate integration contribute to a continuation of symptoms.”
EMDR uses a 3-pronged approach, targeting past, present and future stressors. “This treatment approach, which targets past experience, current triggers, and future potential challenges, results in the alleviation of presenting symptoms, a decrease or elimination of distress from the disturbing memory, improved view of the self, relief from bodily disturbance, and resolution of present and future anticipated triggers” (Shapiro, 2001). The goal of EMDR is to reprocess past events, desensitize present triggers and explore more adaptive future outcomes.
EMDR follows a standardized 8-step protocol of procedures to reprocess disturbing memories, by using bilateral visual, auditory or tactile stimulation to resolve traumatic or distressing life experiences. EMDR activates the components of the memory of disturbing life events and aims to resume adaptive information processing and integration of the mind (Maxfield & Hyer, 2002).
During assessment, the history of an individual’s trauma and how it is affecting their current life will be discussed. If EMDR is recommended, a construct of the problem will be explored, that includes an image of the past event, negative beliefs about oneself in relation to the trauma, how an individual would prefer to think of themselves in relation to the event, and the emotions and body sensations associated with the trauma. During memory reprocessing, clinician feedback is kept to a minimum to foster maximum continuity in information processing. The intent behind EMDR is to facilitate a client’s innate ability to heal. While the process is structured in nature, a lot of flexibility is built in to accommodate the differing needs of clients. Shaprio (2001) states, “EMDR unfolds according to the needs, resources, diagnosis, and development of the individual client in the context of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, the clinician, using clinical judgment, emphasizes elements differently depending on the unique needs of the particular client”.
What is the Research saying about EMDR?
EMDR is an empirically valid treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is an internationally endorsed form of therapy for trauma. A study conducted by Marcus, Marquis & Sakai (1997) showed that by the end of EMDR treatment, 100% of subjects with a single trauma and 80% of subject with multiple traumas no longer met the criteria for PTSD. Furthermore, a meta-analysis of a myriad of treatment options was conducted, including EMDR, pharmacotherapies, behavior therapy, relaxation therapies and others (Van Etten & Taylor, 1998). EMDR and behavioural therapy were found to be the most effective. EMDR treatment not only was shorter than behavioural therapy, but the positive effects increased at follow-up while the effects of behavioural therapy remained the same (Van etten & Taylor, 1998., Wilson et al., 1997).
Levin et al.‘s 1999 research in neuroimaging after EMDR treatment indicates “(a) emotional regulation due to increased activity of the prefrontal lobe, (b) inhibition of limbic over-stimulation by increased regulation of the association cortex, (c) reduction in the intrusion and over-consolidation of traumatic episodic memory due to the reduction of temporal lobe activity, (d) the reduction of occipitally mediated flashbacks, and (e) the induction of a functional balance between the limbic and prefrontal areas”. In summary, EMDR has shown to increase emotion regulation capability and decrease intrusive traumatic memories.
Levin, P., Lazrover, S., & Van de Kolk, B. A. (1999). What psychological testing and neuroimaging tells us about the treatment of PTSD by EMDR. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 13, 159-172.
Marcus, S., Marquis, P., & Sakai, C. (1997). Controlled study of treatment of PTSD using EMDR in an HMO setting. Psychotherapy, 34, 307-315.
Maxfield, L., & Hyer, L. (2002). The relationship between efficacy and methodology in studies investigating EMDR treatment o PTSD. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 23-41.
Shapiro, F. (2001). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Van Etten, M., & Taylor, S. (1998). Comparative efficacy of treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder: A meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 5(3), 126-144.
Wilson, S., Becker, L., & Tinker, R. (1997). Fifteen-month follow-up of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) treatment for PTSD and psychological trauma. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 65, 1047-1056.