EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of therapy that differs from talk therapy. Francine Shapiro created EMDR for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) due to the limited treatment options for PTSD. As a result, EMDR became a treatment method for people suffering from the effects of traumatic experiences. Therapists and clients found it to be effective. In my work, I’ve found EMDR therapy to be effective with survivors of sexual assault.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy occurs in therapy sessions led by an EMDR therapist through an 8-phase process. Currently, it is not fully understood what happens internally during EMDR therapy. However, we know that bilateral stimulation helps the two sides of your brain work together in a new way. This is important because of how trauma lives in the brain and the body. Traumatic memories are different than the memories you hold of everyday experiences. This is because your body goes into fight, flight, freeze, or fawn mode when trauma occurs. As a result, traumatic memories are often associated with strong sensory components. Further, the details of the event may not be fully remembered. Moreover, it may be difficult to put your experience into words.
The first steps of EMDR include strengthening your internal resources and coping skills. Additionally, you identify the traumatic memories you want to work on. While in EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation begins. Bilateral stimulation helps your brain and body reprocess past experiences. This is typically in the form of eye movements. Your eyes will follow a therapist’s fingers back and forth, or you will alternate taps on your legs or upper arms.
What is Trauma? What is PTSD?
The American Psychological Association describes trauma to be an emotional response. This could be a response to a terrible event like an accident, rape, or natural disaster. You may experience trauma directly, or you may witness someone else experiencing trauma. You may also learn about trauma occurring to a close family member or friend and have an emotional response.
In the immediate aftermath of trauma, it is common to feel shocked, numb, or be in denial. For some of us, experiencing trauma can have the longer-lasting effects of PTSD. While this can vary from person to person, you may experience things such as flashbacks, nightmares, or mood changes. Additionally, some have difficulty trusting, sleep troubles, and issues with concentration. Even still, it is possible to have urges to avoid remembering what happened to you, or avoidance of external things that remind you of the trauma.
Sexual Assault is a Form of Trauma
Sexual assault occurs when you’re forced into any sexual act. According to The Blue Bench, a Colorado-based organization focused on ending sexual assault, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience an attempted or completed sexual assault in their lifetime. And, shockingly, 99.5% of rapists will never spend a day in jail.
Unfortunately, there are many myths out there about sexual assault. Many of these myths inaccurately place the blame on the person assaulted, which can add to the trauma experienced. The blame a survivor encounters following rape can also keep them silent. Further, this can lead to increased feelings of self-blame and shame. As a survivor, you may be experiencing the detrimental effects this has on your mental health.
Treating the Effects of Sexual Assault with EMDR
EMDR therapy alleviates the symptoms of trauma in a few different ways. Here are three ways EMDR addresses common struggles survivors of sexual assault experience:
One of the goals of the EMDR process is to eliminate the disturbance you associate with particular memories. In other words, the traumatic memories can be reprocessed. In doing this, we make traumatic memories feel more like a typical memory. This makes remembering the experience less disruptive in your life.
Your sense of self can be shaken when trauma occurs. This can lead to internalized negative beliefs about yourself. Through EMDR therapy, we work with you to identify the negative self-beliefs you hold. We understand that these can come up as a result of your experience. Additionally, we identify and strengthen positive self-beliefs.
You may experience many emotions following a rape. Some of them include fear, shame, guilt, confusion, anger, sorrow, and helplessness. EMDR works to tap into the stored emotional aspects of your experience in your brain. This helps you process them in a new way, and can often lead to insights to aid your healing process.
EMDR Therapy in Louisville, CO Can Help You Find Your Way Forward
Unresolved trauma often keeps you stuck in the past and fearful of the future. Our trained EMDR therapists know that survivors of sexual assault all have their own unique journey to healing. Therefore, finding which way is your best way is crucial as you confront your past and move towards your future. EMDR therapy may be an effective therapeutic intervention for you. If you’re ready to put the past behind you, please contact us to see how EMDR could help you begin healing today!
Other Therapy Services at Vitality Therapeutic Services
We offer more than trauma treatment at our Louisville, CO-based counseling practice. We know how hectic life can get, so we offer online therapy for anyone in the state of Colorado. Our services include therapy for women, anxiety treatment, counseling for new parents, and therapy for life transitions. We are here to help and support you. Contact us now to learn how to get started.