EMDR for Rape or other Bad Experiences
What is EMDR? EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, although modern EMDR therapy includes a lot more than what its name implies. EMDR therapy is a very effective approach for resolving the intense feelings and memories that stick around after you've experienced something overwhelming, like rape or other traumas. The most notable feature of EMDR is the use of some kind of bilateral (rhythmic left-right-left-right) stimulus. Originally, the stimulus was back-and-forth eye movement (thus the name). These days most people like to use pairs of gentle vibrators that alternate a vibration from left to right. These can be held in each hand, tucked under legs or feet, etc. Headphones that alternate a tone from the left to the right ear are also available.
How does it work? While we don't yet know exactly how it works, research evidence is clear that it does work! Recent publications hypothesize that EMDR may work something like REM sleep, which is the part of sleep in which we dream. It is during REM sleep that we process and store memories of all types, filing them away as part of the story of our past.
Before We Start EMDR
Can we jump right into EMDR without discussing my childhood and all that? EMDR includes some steps that happen before we get to the fancy bilateral stimulation part. These steps include at least a brief discussion of your history, an assessment of your readiness for EMDR, development of skills that help you remain in control during the whole process, and development of a treatment plan. When you are ready, we will identify good targets for EMDR processing. These might include recent distressing events, current situations that bring up emotional reactions, and/or events from your past.
During an EMDR Session
What is an EMDR session like? Once we decide which of your targets to work on, we start by coming up with an image (imaginary or from a memory) that represents that issue well. Then we identify a related negative belief about yourself, and a positive belief you'd rather have. We go through a set of alternating "left brain" and "right brain" questions to get your brain ready to process the issue. After all of those preliminaries, we start bilateral stimulation (see above). This happens while you let your mind wander wherever it wants to go. I'll check in with you frequently, to keep track of where your thoughts are taking you. I may offer a suggestion if your thoughts seem to get stuck. Usually, you will find new insights and associations emerging. An EMDR session often ends with a guided visualization which helps you put away the issues we worked with, allowing you to leave the session feeling relaxed, supported, and in control.
After EMDR Processing
What to expect afterwards. After EMDR, usually the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated, or greatly decreased, and new insights have been developed. We will usually then work to reinforce these changes, to ensure that they last, through more conventional forms of talk therapy.
For more information about EMDR therapy see the EMDR International Association website at: http://www.emdria.org