Q: Let's follow an example, such as a teacher picking on a second grade student. Even though the person is now an adult, they still feel as if they “fall into a pit” around these kinds of experiences.
Q: Not to be too simplistic, but it sounds as if trauma keeps people in a “stuck” place.
A: It does. Trauma can keep information stuck in the nervous system. The emotions of the adult around the situation can be still as fresh and unprocessed as when they happened to them as a second grade child.... So even with high intelligence, years of talk therapy, lots of study and understanding, a person may be unable to change their low self-esteem. EMDR seems to allow a person to let go of the negative images around their traumatic events and take hold of the positive feelings about themselves and their world.
Of positive outcome studies done on EMDR, some studies show that 84 - 90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after only three 90-minute sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR that it is now recognized worldwide as an effective form of treatment for trauma, and other disturbing experiences. EMDR is also effective in treating people with low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and other problems treated in therapy. Over 70,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 20 years.
Q: What does the process of EMDR consist of?
A: The clinician first takes a thorough history of the client. Target areas of trauma are identified. The components of the target areas are explored and a treatment plan is developed. Desensitization occurs around the target areas, and the installation of new beliefs, thoughts and feelings are linked to the target areas. A body scan is done to release physical tension. The client is brought to a state of equilibrium before closing a session. At the next session, a re-evaluation is done on the previous work.
Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used. After determining which memory to target, the client focuses on components of that event, while their eyes track the therapist's hand as it moves back and forth across their field of vision. Internal associations arise as the memory is processed, and the painful event transforms on an emotional level. Insights gained in EMDR result from the accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. Clients conclude EMDR feeling empowered and transformed.
Ordinary experience is normally processed during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. When trauma prohibits normal processing, memory is stored in the nervous system in an unprocessed form. REM sleep is inhibited in long-term survivors of trauma. EMDR is believed to utilize this natural healing mechanism during waking consciousness—as hemispheric communication across the corpus collosum is facilitated. It is the alternating stimulation that reprocesses information. Other forms of stimulation such as touch (tapping) or sounds can also be used.
Dr. Francine Shapiro published her pilot study in 1989. To date, EMDR has been studied more than any other method for PTSD. Dr. Janet Colli received EMDR Level I & Level II trainings in Seattle. Since 1996 she has used EMDR in psychotherapy to treat a wide range of issues, tailored to each individual:
• Complex PTSD due to childhood abuse & neglect
• PTSD due to earthquake & car accidents
• PTSD of victims of violent crime
• Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
Janet Colli is a pioneer in the use of EMDR for processing transpersonal experience, including:
• Spiritual emergence or transformational crisis
• Perinatal & past life experience
• Near-death experiences (NDEs)
Our memories are stored and linked in networks that contain related thoughts, images, emotions and sensations. But strong negative feelings or dissociation interferes with information processing. This prevents the forging of connections with other memory networks. For example, an abuse survivor may “know” that others are responsible for her abuse, but still feel that she is to blame. When information processing is thrown out of balance, memory is stored in the right hemisphere where affect is primary, and language is secondary. That memory is stored in a fragmented, unprocessed form. EMDR helps link up these neuro-networks. EMDR alleviates symptoms by processing the components of distressing memories, and linking those memories with more adaptive information. The experience is then stored with appropriate emotions, able to guide the person in the future.
Janet Colli, Ph.D.
Thomas Beck, Ph.D.
360.678.7737 (Whidbey Island)
The Good Shepherd Center
4649 Sunnyside Ave. N., Ste. 341
Seattle, Washington 98103, also
Coupeville (Whidbey Island)
Dr. Colli got me through the past few years and helped me diffuse old pains using EMDR. I had a lot of confusion about my family members and now I have clarity. I suffered from severe depression, had physical problems, perhaps PTSD, and was moving into full-blown panic attacks I couldn't control. I'm okay now. Janet was always kind, concerned, patient, and supportive of me which I appreciated greatly. She seemed to never judge or push me, but simply accepted and worked with me.
Dr. Thomas Beck helped me navigate my process through spiritual awakening and PTSD using therapeutic techniques including EMDR and meditation. I have learned to accept myself as a healer on my spiritual path while maintaining my career and raising my children. I appreciate Dr. Beck's patience, support and ability to create a safe space.
Dr. Colli has been tireless and infinitely patient in helping me understand early life trauma and to identify and stay aware of the patterns in my thinking that hold me back. We've used mostly traditional psychotherapy and EMDR. Practical knowledge about things like brain plasticity, as well as awareness meditation and gratitude exercises are some of the things that currently are helping me.
I began seeing Dr. Beck after the pain of past traumas began to consume me. I had lost my perspective on life, and where I "fit" in the Cosmos. Dr. Beck’s compassion and support provided a safe place to deal with childhood abuse issues. His professional expertise in the utilization of EMDR enabled me to face the immense emotional pain that childhood abuse inflicts on survivors.
The speed at which change occurs during EMDR contradicts the traditional notion of time as essential for psychological healing. Shapiro has integrated elements from many different schools of psychotherapy into her protocols, making EMDR applicable to a variety of clinical populations.
—Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD
Professor of Psychiatry,
Boston University School of Medicine
EMDR assists survivors in the immediate aftermath of violent trauma by breaking through the walls of denial, shock, grief and anger... Ideal for those who have been unable to forget past traumatic life events, as it allows for a rapid processing of even deeply rooted memories, giving individuals back control of their lives.
—Dusty Bowencamp, RN CTR
Disaster Mental Health, American Red Cross
EMDR provides a proven approach to address the trauma that can interfere with healthy grief and mourning following the loss of a loved one.
—Therese A. Rando, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director,
Institute for the Study and Treatment of Loss
EMDR is proving to be the silicon chip of psychotherapy; it allows people to process incredible amounts of material in a shockingly short time.
—Michael Elkin, Ph.D.
Director, Center for Collaborative Solutions
EMDR is a therapy where the client is very much in charge, which can be particularly meaningful when people are recovering from having their power taken away by abuse and violation.
—Laura S. Brown, Ph.D.
EMDR is the most revolutionary, important method to emerge in psychotherapy in decades.
—Herbert Fensterheim, Ph.D.