Memories provide transportable snapshots of moments that we can take anywhere, and they allow us to relive those moments and experiences to a certain extent. Some memories, however, hinder the activities of daily life by consistently invoking terror or anger to a debilitating degree. Scientists know that the brain processes information and builds memories differently when under stress than under normal conditions. A stressed brain cannot file memories in the hippocampus, the part of the brain where all memories are stored, as effectively when the other neurotransmitters involved in stress response – the flight or fight mechanism – are present. These memories tend to be “stuck in time.” Rather than filed away in less emotional centers of the brain, these memories remain in a more active region that allows them to provoke visceral responses in the body – they recreate sounds, smells, physical sensations and even mental distress.
An individual with such traumatic memories might find such visceral and uncontrollable responses a hinderance to the activities of daily life. The rumbling of a bus might suddenly have the power to evoke terrible memories that make the person feel they are reliving war, abuse, or other dramatic events. These physical responses to memories can also lead to additional off-shoots of depression and anxiety as the individual feels they are losing control of their own ability to cope as well as their ability to get through the day.
Psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro happened upon an observation that would revolutionize psychotherapy for victims of trauma. She found that eye movements could reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts under certain conditions. This discovery and the subsequent research and collaboration of psychologists all over the world resulted in EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy.
At the Cady Wellness Institute, therapist Linda Simmons provides EMDR therapy to her clients in conjunction with other modes of psychotherapy. With her characteristic kindness and humor, Linda helps her clients to recognize those experiences around which they have traumatic memories and then works with them to reprocess those memories. Over the course of treatment, patients experience their traumatic memories with less intensity and less emotion, resulting in decreased physical reactions to the memories.
EMDR is FDA approved. First used with patients presenting with PTSD, research has shown broad-reaching implications for a variety of conditions including panic attacks, performance anxiety, stress, disturbing memories of abuse, complicated grief, and addictions to name a few. Linda works with her patients to determine the unique court of therapy that will best treat their discomfort and depression, while working with them to increase their use of healthy and positive coping mechanisms.
To learn more about EMDR therapy at the Cady Wellness Center, contact our front office today!