You Can’t Unsee That – EMDR Therapy

It’s often been said when seeing a scary movie or unwanted visual experience “ I can’t unsee that.” What is said as a joke is often very different in real life. The human mind is designed to reframe and compartmentalize to try to forget and unsee. In many circumstances, what our minds are trying so desperately to unsee has merely been re-cataloged and blocked out of mental self-preservation. Because of this internal safety mechanism, therapists have to {literally} dig deeper to unlock the true trauma hiding beneath the surface.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. 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 trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.”

In One’s Eyes…

As children, when you would get a cut or scrape, the typical first response would be to rush to our loved ones and beg for a bandage {preferably the coolest superhero kind} and quickly close the wound. “Out of sight, out of mind” right? It is only once the wound is closed that healing can begin.

Mental trauma often acts like a scrape to the mind – an open wound, unwittingly left open, with memories and pain left to fester. The mind tries to bandage and block, but it’s still there, unable to heal until it’s been treated. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain is designed to naturally proceed towards mental health.  If it encounters the roadblock of a disturbing event, the emotional wound can cause tremendous suffering. The client can feel the block, but experiences the frustration of being unable to get past it. EMDR helps clients to naturally begin the process of moving healing forward, unblocking their system and memories.

With the careful guidance of a trained therapist, a client is able to delicately move past the trauma of a memory to view themselves as the survivor of their past. Skilled motions help the client to consider their trauma in three different facets of time – the past, present and future – throughout 8 various phases.  As the client and clinician walk through each phase together, critical historical and perspective information is shared. The therapy uses skilled motion to empower the client with several different ways of handling emotional distress.  EMDR Therapists may also teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques for the client to utilize during, as well as after their sessions.

The EMDR Process

During EMDR therapy procedures, a target is identified and processed.  These involve the client identifying three things:

  1. The vivid visual image related to the memory – what do they see?
  2. A negative belief about self – what do they think?
  3. Related emotions and body sensations – how does it make them feel?

Additionally, EMDR therapists assist the client to move past the negative block and identify positive emotions. This enables the client to find a balance between the positive and negative emotions.Greenhouse Lobby

EMDR treatment allows clients to begin processing through their negative memories, facing their demons – so to speak- and re-wrapping them for better mental compartments in their brain space. While you really cannot ever “unsee” something, EMDR allows the client to view it within a lens that keeps them safe, processes through their trauma, and keeps them moving forward towards total, holistic healing and recovery – no longer needing their addiction to keep it at bay.


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