“Most people come into therapy because they know something is wrong. There is an “I” that feels locked up and knows that there is a better way…EMDR can remove the block that is preventing the natural movement toward health. It can release you into the present you always wanted for yourself, a present where you can feel free and in control.”
~Dr. Francine Shapiro, PhD, EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Overcoming Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma
How Does EMDR Work?
One of the most powerful and well-researched therapies used to treat trauma and its lasting effects is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – also known as EMDR. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.
EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological and emotional trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.
When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can causes intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.
How Does Somatic Experiencing Work?
Somatic Experiencing was developed by Peter Levine, PhD, who posited that the damaging cyclical thoughts resulting from a life trauma are due to the automatic nervous system being disrupted. In other words, as mammals, humans have an inherent capacity to regulate stress through the automatic nervous system, until that system is interrupted by an out of the ordinary traumatizing event.
In a Somatic Experiencing session, you might expect to sit face to face with your therapist, who will then ask you to describe the sensations that keep coming up after a traumatic event/events. The idea is to release lingering physical stress, little by little, that your body may still be harboring after the experience. Your therapist will work with you to process those sensations so that you can more effectively heal.
What Is the Evidence Behind Somatic Therapies?
Somatic therapies such as EMDR and Somatic Experiencing are used mainly in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and trauma, but they also play a positive role in recovery from anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, and substance abuse. Somatic therapies are designed for anyone who needs to free themselves from destructive thoughts in order to live a more meaningful life.
EMDR has been researched at length and is now recommended by the American Psychiatric Association in their treatment guidelines. Nearly two dozen randomized trials over the past three decades have shown that the inclusion of EMDR in a recovery plan heightens the chance for its success.
Studies on Somatic Experiencing show that, like EMDR, it is an effective intervention. In a 2009 study of social workers experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the group of workers who had undergone Somatic Experiencing as part of their treatment showed much greater improvement in resiliency and coping skills. They also experienced a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression.
For more Information about Somatic EMDR, check out Natural Processing.