Trauma is officially trending.
As long as humans have existed, we’ve had it. But now? Now we can talk about it openly, share, bond, be vulnerable, and work through it all together. Weaponizing our trauma, though? That’s on the out list for 2024, for sure. Processing our trauma is officially in.
One major way to process trauma and traumatic memories is through therapy. There are many modes of therapy available, and by now, many people we know have a talk therapist. But an EMDR trauma therapist (EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) specializes in the type of trauma and repressed memories that prevent us from moving forward in life, love, careers, and relationships.
We spoke with Molly Garber, a Licensed Trauma Therapist with a specialty in EMDR, to break down the nitty gritty, starting with the basics. Like, what the hell does eye movement have to do with brain processing?
Believe it or not, “EMDR therapy can be administered through eye movements, tapping, auditory stimulation, and/or vibrational currents in the hands,” Molly tells us. That’s because eye movement plays a role in memory recall, and forced eye movements trigger neurological pathways. Trippy.
“When processing traumatic or bothersome memories with my patients, I typically use the standard eight-phase protocol. This involves taking a patient’s full history, walking them through a relaxation (or ‘Safe/Calm Place’) exercise, and then reprocessing the bothersome memory. What I love about EMDR is that the clinician doesn’t just focus on emotions but also the body’s sensations (both negative and/or positive) to determine how a person may still be experiencing a specific memory,” Molly explains.
While we’re big fans of all things woo-woo, this science is woo-less. Devoid of the woo. It’s part empirical and all effective.
“With trauma work, there is something that I refer to as ‘little t’ or ‘big T’ traumas. ‘Little t’ traumas are less black-and-white experiences from your life that have impacted you. A couple examples might include a mother slamming a door, a high school teacher forcing someone to give a presentation in class—things like that. ‘Big T’ traumas are more textbook, clear-cut traumas like surviving physical abuse, sexual violence, etc.
“What makes EMDR so effective is that a person can process any troubling experience, no matter the severity, to reduce uncomfortable symptoms such as generalized anxiety or depression,” Molly explains.
We love the inclusivity. No trauma is too big or too small, and no one needs to feel badly about themselves for needing a little help processing even the smallest “t” memory.
Molly shares a few EMDR myth busters/fun facts:
- You do not need to have the standard PTSD diagnosis or symptoms to benefit from EMDR.
- EMDR is a rapid, solution-oriented therapeutic modality that has been shown to effectively alleviate negative emotions (e.g. anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking, etc.).
- EMDR is not and should not be physically painful.
- During EMDR, a person is completely awake, alert, and responsive.
- EMDR and hypnosis are not the same.
“EMDR therapy works by stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain,” Molly explains.
“Although the inner workings of EMDR have not yet been scientifically clarified, studies using MRI brain imaging and EEG have shown profound beneficial impacts that this type of therapy has on the rewiring of the brain.”
Molly describes the focus of EMDR therapy like this: One side of our brain sees the problem (in this case, the traumatic memory), and the other side of our brain has the solution (which prevents the traumatic memory from triggering us and/or harming our mental health). EMDR helps us bridge that gap.
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