Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a widely used and well-researched therapy for trauma, anxiety disorders, and other mental health issues. The premise of EMDR is that traumatic memories can be stored in the memory networks in a dysfunctional manner, leading to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Both psychological and physical impacts of trauma can manifest long after an event occurs. The body and brain remember trauma intensely. Whether an event is directly experienced or witnessed, it can have lasting impacts on a person.
The goal of EMDR is to reprocess disturbing memories in an adaptive manner while instilling positive thoughts and perspectives. For some, the idea of going into an office setting for therapy is unsettling. Fortunately, EMDR is easily adapted for online counseling.
If you are suffering from one of these symptoms, online EMDR may help you:
- Avoidance of people, places, images, and things that remind you of certain experiences
- Heart palpitations
- Frequent nightmares
- Social isolation
- Addiction and substance abuse
- Frequent cognitive confusion or disorientation
- Emotional numbing
The Biology of Trauma
When we experience trauma, our bodies enter an aroused state, leading to the activation of multiple biological pathways. The limbic system, our emotional center in the brain, regulates emotional expression, and memory. In particular, the amygdala processes and facilitates the memory storage of emotionally charged events. The hippocampus, another brain structure involved in memory, helps to make sense of memories. When our stress level is high, brain chemicals (e.g. cortisol) limit the hippocampus from processing and integrating memories. During times of trauma and memory recall the hippocampus is suppressed.
The amygdala’s heightened reaction contributes to distorted and emotionally activated memories many years later. The limbic system is activated during times of stress and is directly connected to the autonomic nervous system (ANS). When the limbic system evaluates a situation as dangerous, it signals the ANS and other pathways to be ready to respond.
The ANS comprises the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. The parasympathetic system is considered our calming branch and the sympathetic system is the activating branch of the ANS. This complex series of reactions is referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Behaviorally, we may respond with urges to flee, fight, or freeze.
We have two types of memory systems: implicit and explicit. Explicit memory refers to the memory of facts, ideas, operations, and personal history. Implicit memory involves unconscious, internal state, and procedural memories, such as riding a bicycle and highly emotional events. Related to trauma, explicit memory allows us to cohesively recount a memory, placing it within our historical events. However, implicit memory can trigger flashbacks, nightmares, disassociation, and anxiety. In fact, when a traumatic memory is triggered, you may actually feel as you did when you experienced the trauma. This is referred to as state-dependent recall.
When you experience chronic trauma, such as child abuse, your brain may have trouble bringing up memories without you experiencing disturbing thoughts, emotions, images, sensations, and behaviors. Whether the traumatic experience is a single event or repeated, the associated memories can negatively impact your everyday functioning. The consequences of trauma vary depending on an individual’s personality, the nature of the trauma, and the level of support from others.
What exactly is EMDR therapy?
EMDR is an 8-phase treatment approach. Each phase is designed to facilitate the processing of painful memories, emotions, and bodily sensations. During EMDR therapy, you will be compassionately guided through the phases until your issues are resolved. EMDR relies on your brain’s natural healing capacity, with instructional assistance in a therapeutic space. During EMDR, you will likely feel discomfort; however, your EMDR therapist will be there to provide support and advice.
How does online EMDR work?
Dr. Mazzei, an EMDR specialist, offers online EMDR through her virtual practice. She has successfully helped many individuals overcome their struggles with trauma, anxiety, depression, and addiction. She recognizes that due to many concerns, coming into an office for counseling isn’t always feasible or convenient. As an alternative, you can experience the benefits of EMDR through her virtual practice.
Teletherapy provides a convenient and confidential option to receive EMDR therapy. Technology companies have developed creative solutions to facilitate EMDR processing virtually. At our practice, Dr. Mazzei uses RemotEMDR. This platform allows you to talk to her via video and to engage in bilateral stimulation (BLS), which is an essential component of EMDR. Handouts, illustrations, and resources are provided electronically for you to download or print. Online EMDR has been shown to be just as effective as same-location EMDR therapy.
How do I get started?
If you are someone you know is interested in EMDR, please reach out to us. You can send us a message through the website, call our office, or schedule an initial consultation. A member of our staff will contact you as soon as possible to answer any questions and provide you with information on the next steps. We look forward to hearing from you.