Posted on Sep 19th, 2006

EMDR Uses a Person’s Eye Movements to "Rewire" the Brain

New techniques gaining respect among therapists can easily reduce or eliminate painful emotions, altogether. These methods (known as Power Therapies) bring relief from fears and traumas, like phobias, depression, grief, rape, natural disasters, crime, childhood sexual abuse, and post traumatic stress. They’ve proven themselves to be effective whether the pain is physical or emotional.

Power Therapies usually produce marked results in three to eight sessions. And the results are usually permanent. So people don’t need to wait for years to eliminate intrusive thoughts or memories. Respected scientific studies prove the benefits are real and long-lasting.

Each of the Power Therapies reduces negative emotions by redirecting neural pathways in the brain. Although each method differs in its approach, Power Therapies work by interrupting old habits (reflexes) that developed from painful incidents. During treatment, a person focuses their mind on the pain or problem - which is desensitized. As that happens, a new belief about the self emerges, and the new belief (along with the feelings of well-being) are strengthened and built upon.

A person need not have any confidence in how these techniques work for them to be effective on their pain. It also doesn’t matter whether the trauma results from something that happened recently, or from long ago. The precise cause of the distress needn’t be known. These treatments work by triggering brain functions below conscious awareness.

EMDR Works Below the Level of Consciousness - Deep in the Brain

Studies suggest that memories too painful to deal with consciously are processed while the person is asleep. During the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep the eyes move the same way as they do during EMDR treatments.

Intense fears are "learned" at the cortical level of the brain, which is inaccessible to talk-it-out therapies. Activities that interrupt and replace those negative emotions and reflexes, allow less painful responses to take their place.

EMDR treatment involves back-and-forth eye movements, alternating sounds, and/or vibrations that stimulate the brain to resolve disturbing emotions. It was developed in the late 1980s by Francine Shapiro, to help patients deal with disasters and post traumatic stress reactions. It was thoroughly researched with Viet Nam veterans, and shown to be 80% more effective in processing trauma than other therapies. But EMDR works just as well with less dramatic, hurtful events, or self-limiting beliefs that cause low self-esteem.

Language is a left brain function, and emotions are held in the right brain. This has been shown with SPECT Scans developed by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. ( Dr. Amen specializes in working with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and measures activity in the brain with this imaging scan. Looking at the brain with this instrument, the patient is asked to recall an unresolved trauma. When this happens the right hemisphere of the brain lights up in the image (it gets heated).

This information was discovered about the same time that the mind-body therapies were developed. Focusing on where the feeling is held in the body, while having alternate bi-lateral stimulation (as in eye movements, alternating sound, etc.) causes strong feelings to get desensitized. They loose their intensity.

The theory why this works - this alternate-bilateral stimulation engages the right hemisphere of the brain, as well as the left hemisphere. Without engaging the right brain as well, the trauma is not processed. Only mental health professionals are trained in EMDR, and sessions are conducted within a therapeutic setting.

My Typical EMDR Treatment Session

When working with a client, I allow one hour fifteen minutes for an EMDR session. While the person relaxes, the sounds play in the background. As in hypnosis, the client goes into a light trance.

I start by strengthening positive feelings, and feelings of times when they felt strong, confident, peaceful, and proud of something they’d done successfully. I intensify these feelings using imagery and Eye Movements.

The alternating sounds let the person close their eyes, and go more deeply into their experience. More importantly, they can move through the problem much faster than with traditional therapies. I guide them with my voice into the traumatic or painful experience to be desensitized. The topic was previously decided upon between us. Any specific event leads inevitably to what’s connected to it; and that, too, gets addressed.

I ask the person to name the emotion they’re feeling, as they see themselves in this event. Then they rate the amount of charge they feel about it (on a scale of one to ten; ten being the highest). That’s their starting point (usually six or higher). I have them place their hand on the part of their body where that fear/emotion is held, and ask them to visualize any pictures related to the emotion.

The person continues the reverie, as connected experiences and images come up. As we process these images or emotions felt in the body (with the Eye Movements and the alternating sound) they report the intensity of the feeling going down, to a one or two. Intense feelings are no longer attached to the event.

When this happens, I ask, "What belief do you have about yourself now as you look back at that event?" A common example is to go from the belief that, "I’m helpless," to, "Whatever happens I can/will handle it."

I end by intensifying and "Future Pacing" the good feeling that goes with "whatever happens I will handle it." I have them see and feel themselves (using imagery and suggestion) going through the day and into the future with this feeling fully activated in their body. This exercise implants tangible imagery into the person’s mind, so it affects their daily activities.

At the beginning of the next session I have them check inside their body, to see if there are any remaining feelings surrounding the incident we have desensitized. If not, we go on to the next incident (or memory) to be desensitized.

The Essence of Counseling is to Combine Methods that Best Serve the Client

The client-centered approach I use brings in a variety of therapeutic methods. The Power Therapies are powerful and varied (also read about EFT, Emotional Freedom Techniques, which I teach to all my clients (

Each person has unique emotional needs, so a range of treatments, like hypnosis or coaching, may all combine to support their emotional growth. The beauty of Power Therapies lies in their ability to alleviate lifelong problems so rapidly.

© 2006, Susan Quinn

Susan Quinn, MA., MFT, Certified Life Coach - Power Therapies and Coaching - Newer methods for faster healing and growth in all areas of your life. Subscribe to my free monthly E-zine, Power Therapies E-zine 310-600-34

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