Medical professionals are constantly researching new ways to treat disorders related to trauma and depression. Depression rates around the world are on the rise and people are getting diagnosed with these disorders more and more frequently. People tend to resort to medications to help them with their depressed state, some even going as far as to self-medicate which always winds up making the issue worse than it initially was. Self-medicating or even ignoring the lingering depression can result in suicidal thoughts. In the U.S. alone there are over 44,000 deaths every year due to suicide. Most of these people end up like this because they are unable to get proper treatment. 80-90% of the people who are able to get treatment are reported to have successful results. It’s clear to see that treatment is key in treating depression disorders, so today we’re going to discuss one of the latest forms of treatment in terms of unconventional psychotherapy: EMDR Therapy. 

New Solution To A Not So Old Issue

Depression has been something we as humans have fought for ages, it’s nothing new to us. However, only until recently did we start to see just how important mental well-being is. Psychologist Francine Shapiro realized just how important mental health was so she created this unconventional form of psychotherapy we refer to as EMDR therapy. EMDR, (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is a form of treatment that Shapiro has developed to treat patients for traumatic experiences. EMDR therapy works like this:

  • A patient meets with a counselor to discuss the issues they are experiencing, why they may be experiencing them, and the symptoms associated with their issues.
  • Patients do not need to reveal every traumatic experience they have had right away, but they are encouraged to share their negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. 
  • Eventually, after further discussion of negative thoughts and feelings, the counselor will try and help the patient open up about why they may be feeling this way. This will most likely help the person feel more comfortable with opening up about their traumas associated with their negative feelings. 
  • The therapist will then proceed to spend 90-minutes guiding the patient along with sessions that involve trauma recollection while following the movement of the therapist’s hands. The therapist will hold their hands in front of the patient and move them around, making the patient follow their movements with their eyes.
  • These sessions also involve some auditory or bodily sensations that will help coax a patient safely recollect their traumas, but reinforcing it with positive thoughts. 
  • Gradually, the therapist will help a patient shift their negative thinking into a more positive mindset so they can better cope with their negative thoughts. 
  • After each session, a patient is able to rate their level of distress. This helps the counselor know what will and will not work for therapy on each patient.

So, we know how the process goes, but how exactly does it help a patient overcome depression and traumatic experiences associated with that?

What’s The Science Behind EMDR?

When it comes to traumatic experiences, the right side of our brain is where those kinds of memories are stored. EMDR therapy helps build bridges in a person’s brain and activates new resources that help fight against those traumatic experiences. EMDR helps re-activate the neural networks that are most closely associated with traumatic experiences. In order to do that, EMDR first focuses on the neural networks that are closely associated with positive actions, emotions, and sensations. This helps a patient build up a tolerance for negative emotions and helps them better fight against overwhelming feelings that may cause them to feel depressed. EMDR helps a patient reaffirm themselves with positive cognition and emotions while also desensitizing them to the events that are closely associated with their negative emotions. It’s essentially rehabilitation for the brain. Therapists take a person through mental exercises to help them recollect negative feelings and events that may be overwhelming them while at the same time reinforcing positive thinking to help them combat the negative stimuli. 

What Sort Of Events Can EMDR Therapy Be Used For?

There are plenty of people out there who suffer from different forms of trauma, but the effects of these events can carry similar weight on people across the board. A traumatic event can be any one of these situations:

  • Sexual Abuse/Rape
  • Life-threatening Accident
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Terrorism
  • Natural Disasters
  • Childhood Trauma
  • Family Troubles
  • Verbal/Mental Abuse
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • History of Substance Abuse
  • Schizophrenia
  • Other Mental Health Problems 

This kind of therapy can be great for people that have underlying issues that they have yet to solve. A good amount of people who experience some kind of traumatic event end up burying their traumas deep in their minds, causing other issues to take place. As we mentioned earlier, some people can leave them suppressed for long periods of time, making them develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and maybe even developing other unhealthy habits in life. These underlying issues can start to seep into their professional, relational, or even physical well-being. EMDR seeks to end those unhealthy coping mechanisms and uncover the events that are causing them.

By uncovering these traumatic events, a patient can better cope with them and develop a healthier mind, body, and soul. The only way to properly deal with trauma is to face it head-on. Your demons can’t hide in your closet forever, they will eventually come out and it won’t look pretty. Thankfully, EMDR can help a person fight those demons and ultimately defeat them. Through proper treatment and guidance, a person can overcome the traumatic experiences that have been plaguing their lives for some time. If we let traumatic events linger, our mental health will slowly deteriorate over time, leading to things like stress, anxiety, or even more serious mental disorders like schizophrenia. In order for a person to fully recover and cope with traumatic events, they should consider this kind of psychotherapy. Help is out there! 

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