Who hasn’t dreamed of being able to press a “delete” button to make a painful memory disappear. Assault, accident, intimidation… All these traumatic life events can have a long-lasting impact. EMDR was created to help people ‘live with’. This therapy whose name means: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) does not erase a painful memory (there is no such thing as magic, sorry!), but removes its emotional charge. Eva Drozdowski, a psychologist specializing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress states with EMDR, tells us more about this form of short therapy.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapy that aims to reprocess a traumatic memory through desensitization through eye movements. The goal is not to make the traumatic memory disappear, but to desensitize it completely. The idea is to make sure to remove any negative emotional charge associated with this traumatic event or memory. This makes it possible to serenely recall the relevant memory and to make the physiological symptoms associated with it disappear: belly knotting, heart pounding, hands getting damp.
This form of therapy has been scientifically validated and recommended by the WHO, the ARS, the High Authority of Health, as a treatment for post-traumatic stress states.
What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
It is a set of symptoms that a person develops after a traumatic event (car accident, assault, rape…). For example, if you had a car accident that disturbed you emotionally, you are likely to become post-traumatic. stress disorder (PTSD). That is, you will have flashbacks of the accident, nightmares, you will adopt avoidance behaviors to stop driving or not return to the scene of the accident. â€accidentâ€¦ In the vast majority of cases, these symptoms disappear on their own after a few weeks, but if they persist over time, we can speak of PTSD.
Certain shocks, which are too brutal, are difficult for the brain to process. This information will remain blocked and by remaining blocked, they are ready to be reactivated at any time and trigger this PTSD.
How does this stress state manifest itself in concrete terms?
It can take many forms: phobias, nightmares, OCD, eating disorders, anxiety, depression… At EMDR, we operate on the principle that if something is bothering you on a psychological level today, it is because this symptom is the expression of something that went wrong in your past. By finding out what caused these symptoms and working on it, we can make these symptoms go away.
How does an EMDR session work in practice?
Unlike psychoanalysis, EMDR is part of the short therapies. Usual a so-called â€œsimpleâ€ trauma, perhaps resolved in a few sessions (about 5, depending on the conditions and the people). During one or two sessions we get to know the patient and his problem. It is determined whether the origin of his symptoms is known or not.
Then comes the session where you perform the famous eye movements. We are going to define the source memory to be desensitized, for example a car accident. I will ask the person to describe the accident in question. To describe to me the negative emotions she is feeling, the negative physical sensations and the negative thoughts she is having at the moment. The person focuses on it for a few moments, then we proceed to scan the eye. These movements are called alternating bilateral stimulations. These right-to-left eye movements come to stimulate a part of the brain that processes information.
It’s the same system that is activated at night while we sleep during the REM sleep phase. It is the time of the night when you dream, when you replay everything that happened during the day. During this phase, the brain works to process everything that has happened: it sorts, classifies, organizes, consolidates learning. If you see someone sleeping right now, their body is motionless, but under their eyelids there is this famous sweeping motion. This is what we are trying to reproduce in the waking state with EMDR. This information processing system will thus help the brain to digest the traumatic event.
What types of trauma can EMDR be effective for?
It is about any situation where our physical integrity is compromised. Trauma is divided into two categories, so-called â€œsimpleâ€ traumas and traumas labeled as complex. The first concerns a time-limited event, there is a beginning, there is an end (aggression, fire, accidents…). Complex traumas, on the other hand, take place over time, especially in the case of psychological or physical violence within the family, manipulation, intimidation… These events often take place in childhood or early childhood. had to build themselves up with these harmful events, which inevitably had an impact on their person (low self-esteem, nightmares, burnout…).
Can we turn to EMDR without knowing the exact cause of our discomfort?
Yes quite. Some people are fully aware of the cause of their discomfort, but others do not remember or struggle to make the connection between negative events from the past and the problems they may have today. This is why during the first appointments we will do an anamnesis i.e. the person will explain his past, how he lived it, what kind of environment she lived in etc. This usually helps to find the cause even the hidden, of the PTSD.
In summary, we work with the present (the present problem), the past (the past events that cause this problem), and the future to ease the link between the two.
To continue, discover Eva Drozdowski’s book, Manual for healing from trauma with EMDR, ed. Eyrolles.