How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR aims to help the brain achieve balance again. One of the distinctive ways in which it does this is through “Bilateral Stimulation”.
Bilateral stimulation refers to a set of techniques that the therapist will use to stimulate the left and right sides of the brain and will be applied whilst you focus upon aspects of the memory of the traumatic event.
Bilateral stimulation can be done in the following ways:
Eye movements – The therapist will ask you to follow a stimulus with your eyes. This stimulus could be their hands, a light or stick.
Sounds – Using clicks or tones alternately at either ear.
Sensations – The therapist may tap the backs of your hands or ask you to hold a pair of buzzers to stimulate sensations alternately.
There are a few theories as to why bilateral stimulation is a beneficial aspect of trauma processing.
One of which suggests that EMDR stimulates the processes that occur whilst we are asleep. REM sleep is the stage of sleeping in which we dream. Dreaming is believed to be the process in which our minds make sense of the experiences of the day and process them into long term memory stores. When we experience a traumatic event, because of the additional emotional content of a trauma, rather than just having dreams, we have nightmares. These wake us up and as such, the brain is unable to do its job during sleeptime hours.
REM stands for “Rapid Eye Movement”. If you have ever watched someone while they sleep during the REM stage, you will have seen that their eyes are moving rapidly from side to side – Just like what we do within EMDR. EMDR helps us to process trauma by simulating “REM sleep in the daytime” using Bilateral stimulation.