How Your Brain Organizes Your Memories, Emotions, and Feelings
One way to understand how EMDR therapy works is to think of life experiences as a file system. When experiences, emotions, and physical sensations are manageable and make sense, the brain automatically sorts through these, disregards what is unnecessary, and places the remaining files in long term storage. You can recall what happened in the past, and you know those experiences are over.
When the System Goes Haywire
When experiences, emotions, or physical sensations are extreme, cause distress, or are traumatic, the brain processes that normally sort, discard, and move files to long term storage can stop filing correctly. These difficult experiences can stay “stuck” and feel as if they are happening in the present, over and over. Experiences continue to pile up with unsorted and unprocessed information. This can cause extreme distress. Unprocessed information can evoke feelings of fear or anxiety in everyday situations.
EMDR Therapist Helps Your Internal File System Reboot
EMDR therapy works by exploring this information, safely, with the help of a qualified EMDR therapist. Experiences, feelings, thoughts, and physical sensations will be explored and accurate ways of understanding this information will be discovered. This new understanding can assist in removing the emotional charge, and allow the regular brain processes to start sorting and filing these experiences, emotions, and physical sensations in a way that makes sense. The information is no longer piling up in the present causing distress. The brain starts the healthy process of sorting, disregarding what is unnecessary, and places the remaining file in long term storage.
Finding a Qualified EMDR Therapist
EMDR Therapist is Licensed A qualified EMDR therapist is one who is licensed as a mental health professional in their state of practice, and is also certified by EMDRIA (EMDR International Association). The license name may vary, such as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist or Licensed Psychologist. Professionals who are “registered interns” or “associates” are not licensed. Professionals who are “life coaches,” clergy, or “hypnotherapists” may also hold a separate license, but these titles do not indicate that they hold any license. Most of these other professionals are not licensed, and further investigation of their credentials should be considered.
EMDR is Psychotherapy
It is important to note that EMDR therapy is not life coaching, it is not spiritual guidance, and it is not hypnotherapy. While there can be great value in seeking these services, one should be weary of any unqualified professional touting the use of EMDR. EMDR is psychotherapy.
Because EMDR is an effective and powerful psychotherapy that requires extensive training to be used safely, unlicensed professionals and lay-persons (even someone with a master’s degree in clinical work who is also a church pastor) are not able to become certified. Certification indicates that your EMDR therapist has extensive knowledge and clinical practice with professional consultation using EMDR. EMDRIA sets knowledge and experience standards that are required to safely and effectively use EMDR therapy.
I am a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of California, where I practice. I am certified in EMDR therapy by EMDRIA, which means my education, training, and experiences have met or exceeded their standards. I practice in Orange County, CA and invite you to contact my office if you live nearby and are interested in seeing if EMDR therapy may help you. You can find a qualified provider near you, or verify my certification, by using the EMDRIA.org website and using the find a provider link.