Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) is an innovative and effective treatment for many mental health conditions and chronic physical pain conditions. EMDR is non-invasive, drugfree, risk free and has on side effects.
What you need to know about EMDR therapy
EMDR therapy has proven successful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by processing traumatic memories without the need to revisit and talk at length about their traumatic experience/s. The process of EMDR therapy is slow and methodical, where the therapist helps retrain the brain's responses related to the traumatic event.
EMDR therapy can also help with other mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, panic attacks and even addiction. Traditional therapies for mental health issues focus on teaching coping skills or talk therapy but EMDR therapy focuses on rewiring the brain through a series of bilateral stimulation that includes eye movements, hand taps or tones.
It uses an eight-phase treatment protocol that includes phases for preparation, history taking and assessment; education about post traumatic stress disorder; imaginal exposure; body scan; grounding/reality orientation; installation of adaptive information (self-help skills); and closure.
Organisations, such as the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Defence and the World Health Organisation have conducted numerous studies into EMDR therapy and it is accepted as one of the most effective trauma-focused treatments for treating trauma and other distressing events.
EMDR therapy: adaptive information processing (AIP) model
EMDR therapy is based on the adaptive information processing (AIP) framework. When the original feelings, bodily sensations, and beliefs are kept, high levels of arousal can be an effect of disturbing life experiences and their memory.
A flashback, nightmare, or intrusive thought can be re-experienced in a setting that activates the memory. A wide range of adverse events have also contributed to varied symptomology, including the negative affective cognitive and somatic reactions.
The capacity to treat unprocessed memories has a wide range of applications in medicine since they are frequently associated with numerous health issues.
The goal of EMDR therapy
The goal of EMDR therapy is to assist the client to overcome the effects of a traumatic event or past traumatic experiences. This involves a set of standardised procedures that incorporates elements from a variety of treatment techniques and has helped millions of people from all walks of life overcome psychological trauma.
During EMDR therapy, the client focuses on what is distressing them while they receive bilateral stimulation or input that has nothing to do with those memories. For example, if someone was sexually abused as a child, they might be asked to tap their fingers in time to a specific rhythm while thinking about these traumatic memories.
The bilateral stimulation acts to help the brain to integrate these memories.
Post-traumatic stress disorder
When post traumatic stress disorder is triggered, it can be debilitating to everyday life for many people. Posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms are often very distressing and difficult to overcome, but treatment options, such as EMDR can help to alleviate some of these symptoms in the short term.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing as a treatment for post traumatic stress disorder
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing was developed by Francine Shapiro to treat traumatic memories and experiences. This multisensory input from EMDR therapy helps the brain reprocess distressing memories so they lose their emotional impact and can be integrated into the person's life without causing them the distress commonly associated with post traumatic stress disorder.
The traumatic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder include flashbacks, nightmares, exaggerated startle reflex, hypervigilant and a range of other physical sensations.
When a person suffering from post traumatic stress disorder undergoes a successful course of EMDR treatment, they should be able to recover from these unpleasant and often debilitating symptoms enabling them to:
EMDR therapy relieves affective distress, reformulates negative beliefs, and reduces physiological arousal.
This takes place as the client engages in brief sequential doses of emotionally troubling material while simultaneously focusing on an external stimulus during EMDR therapy.
Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
During EMDR therapy sessions, clients are greeted by a highly trained and knowledgeable practitioner. The sessions are always designed to meet the needs of each individual client. EMDR is comprehensive and includes an eight-phase treatment approach with a treatment focus on past, present and future experiences. The therapist is there to help create a safe, comfortable, and relaxed environment where clients can express themselves freely throughout their treatment.
EMDR therapy is more than just trauma treatment
EMDR therapy is generally known as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, trauma and other mental health conditions, but it has also been used effectively in the treatment of other conditions, including addiction. Using EMDR therapy for addictions can help overcome cravings and desires to use illicit substances or engage in certain addictive behaviours.
It can also help people who are trying to recover from drug overdoses or withdrawal symptoms caused by detoxing.
If you would like to learn more about eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing treatment for post traumatic stress disorder, or another mental health condition visit HERE
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Anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and unease that causes physical changes in the human body, which impact the central nervous system. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health issue in the United States, with 40 million adults experiencing an anxiety disorder each year.
Signs and symptoms of anxiety
Anxiety can cause chronic stress and comes from many diverse sources, such as work stress or traumatic life events. Anxiety often leads to physical symptoms such as headaches, tightness in the upper chest, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle tension and sleep problems. Therefore, it is important to recognise and decrease anxiety to avoid these, often debilitating, symptoms.
Anxiety causes your brain to be hyperactive
Anxiety is a stress response that triggers your brain to be on high alert and become hyperactive in response to potential dangers. When your brain and nervous system experience anxiety on a regular basis, your amygdala grows larger. The amygdala is a tiny almond-shaped structure located in the limbic system, the part of your brain that manages emotions and moods. The amygdala is the brain's lookout, always on the lookout for threats. When the amygdala detects a potential hazard, it sends signals to the hypothalamus, which activates a fight-or-flight response. In an anxious mind, this triggers a person to have anxious thoughts and 'feel anxious'.
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is characterised by excessive anxiety for no discernible reason. GAD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), affects approximately 6.8 million Americans each year.When you have a moderate case, you should be able to go about your regular daily routines without difficulty. Severe cases of GAD will have a significant impact on a person's life.
Social anxiety disorder
Social anxiety disorder is an intense, chronic dread of social situations and being judged or humiliated by others. This severe social phobia makes one feel embarrassed and alone. According to the ADAA, 15 million US adults suffer from a social anxiety disorder. The typical age of onset is around 13 years old. More than a third of persons with a social anxiety disorder have experienced their symptoms for over 10 years.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
After witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event, a person can develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Symptoms might appear immediately or take years to appear. War, natural catastrophes, and physical assaults are some of the most common causes. PTSD episodes can be triggered without notice.
A person with OCD may feel a strong urge to repeat particular behaviours (compulsions) excessively or have intrusive and unwanted thoughts or obsessions that cause distress. Common compulsions include excessive hand-washing, counting and checking something, fear of contamination, hostile urges, and a need for symmetry.
Some examples of phobias include a fear of the dark, skin irritation from bright light, fear of being alone, fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of spiders or snakes and fear of needles is another example. A person with a phobia will have a strong urge to avoid the feared thing or situation or feel an intense feeling of discomfort when confronted with it.
A person with a panic disorder may experience a panic attack, which is an extreme stress response that causes a sense of impending doom such as a fear of dying or loss of control, especially if it is linked to a specific event or situation. The physical symptoms associated with panic disorder can include heart palpitations and chest tightness, sweating or chills, shortness of breath and trembling. These episodes can strike at any moment. Panic disorder is sometimes accompanied by another type of anxiety disorder called agoraphobia, which is an extreme or irrational fear of leaving one's home, entering open or crowded places or being somewhere that is difficult to escape from.
Sympathetic nervous system and autonomic nervous system
The significant players in anxiety disorders include norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and gamma-aminobutyric acid in the central nervous system. The autonomic nervous system indirectly controls the sympathetic nervous system for autonomic failure. As stated above, anxiety is a feeling of fear, worry, and unease. However, anxiety can be helpful for some people who experience these feelings as a response to an impending challenge, such as before taking a test or exam, going to a job interview or on a first date. Anxiety can also signal that something dangerous might happen and encourage the person to take precautions, such prepare for extreme weather even or ensuring safety.
Anxiety becomes problematic when it lasts too long, is too intense, or includes physical symptoms besides fear.
The effects of anxiety on the body's immune system
Anxiety can stimulate your flight-or-fight response, which releases a surge of chemicals and hormones, such as adrenaline, into your system. This raises your heart rate and breathing rate in the short term so that your brain can get more oxygen and prepares you for a critical situation. Your immune system may even be temporarily strengthened as a result of stress. However, if you are constantly anxious and stressed, your body never receives the message to return to normal functioning. This can impair your immunological system, making you more susceptible to viral infections and acute illnesses. Furthermore, if you have anxiety, your usual vaccines may not be as effective.
Central nervous system anxiety
Anxiety results from an imbalance between the sympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for mobilising the body in response to stress or threat) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which is responsible for calming the body). Some of the major ways in which anxiety can affect your physical health are through its effects on digestion, the immune system, the heart, hormone levels and blood pressure (Yaribeygi, Panahi, Sahraei, Johnston & Sahebkar, 2017). Symptom severity changes when stress levels become excessive and anxiety levels increase, it may help you cope less efficiently. Panic attacks show signs of intense anxiety. Brain maps display high beta brain waves on the right brain lobe. Anxiety causes overwhelming hyperactivity, and it is harder to reason.
Ways to calm your central nervous system anxiety
Research shows there are many ways to calm your central nervous system and elicit a relaxation response to improve your mental well being and control your anxiety. These include stress management techniques you can incorporate into your daily life and include:
Anxiety is a normal human emotion
The good news is that it's important to remember that anxiety is a normal human emotion that we all experience from time to time and in one form or another. External and internal factors can cause anxiety but, moving forward, it is important to remember that anxiety is not always bad for your health. Anxiety is often an indicator of something more serious like life-threatening illnesses such as heart disease or cancer, so do not dismiss the feelings you are having if they persist over time.
This blog is for those interested in eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, who wish to use cutting edge methods to relax their bodies. Auricular techniques activate the same mechanisms, which help with associative memory recall, through EMDR and restoration of dual attention, bypassing any requirement for cognitive involvement (e.g., prefrontal cortex).
The most valuable tool required for this technique, and one that every client has easy access to, is their ears.
The client's brain maps their somatic and emotional experiences onto the ear.
EMDR practitioners can read the client’s ear and gain access to their somatic and emotional experiences.
Auricular therapy gives the therapist a 'window into the brain’
Auricular therapy gives the therapist a 'window into the brain' and provides a dynamic and up to date neurological map of specific brain areas including the client's sensory body experiences, the somatic unconscious, somatic memory networks and associated emotions.
Auriculotherapy creates a therapeutic alliance with the client. It has powerful effects on brain function, which facilitates retrieval of information normally inaccessible by other means.
Facilitating access to emotions: the neural signature of EMDR stimulation
Clinical evidence theorises that EMDR stimulation triggers the brain to produce an electrical signal. The observed mechanism is not fully understood, but it is hypothesised to be related to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep inconsistency.
This neural signature of EMDR stimulation was observed in both healthy and clinical populations.
Positive outcomes for auricular based PTSD treatment
Successful studies show that auricular acupressure treatment can reduce symptoms of mental disorders, particularly anxiety disorders. Mental health implications auricular acupressure treatment for This includes generalised anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
and social phobias.
Auricular acupressure treatment has also proved beneficial in the management of conditions like insomnia and depression. Auricular therapy for anxiety disorders includes the use of auricular acupressure treatment with an ear candle, single needle acupoint injection, auriculotherapy with ear drops, auriculotherapy with electrotherapy, or auricular acupuncture.
The use of auricular therapy to treat anxiety disorders
Treating mental disorders, such as anxiety, with auricular therapy is very safe with no known side effects or contraindications. Since auricular therapy does not require any medications, this form of treatment is a great alternative treatment compared to medications or treatments that involve surgery.
Auriculotherapy can be practiced by trained therapists and auriculotherapists without the requirement of advanced medical licensing. Auriculotherapists and auricular acupuncturists can practice auricular therapy in states that do not require licensure to practice auriculotherapy.
Auricular therapy is a non-invasive treatment for anxiety disorders
Since auricular therapy is a non-invasive, well-tolerated treatment for anxiety disorders, the technique is an effective solution compared to conventional medical treatments such as chemical medications. This treatment is beneficial in providing symptom relief, without the side effects associated with benzodiazepines or other medications. Auricular Therapy is also a non-invasive and cost-effective treatment compared to other non-talk therapy-based interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
Improve EMDR treatment with your ear
The ear is a microsystem scientifically validated for assessment and treatment via neuroauricular modulation [13-15], by acupressure, acupuncture, electro-stimulation, laser, and transcutaneous auricular vagus nerve stimulation or tVNS [12-15].
Over 30,000 medical doctors worldwide use neuro auricular modulation, and that number is fast growing. Auriculotherapy, also known as ear acupuncture, is a common treatment in Germany, where it is part of the national health care system.
This technique of somatic therapy emphasises the importance of re-establishing energetic flow/regulation/dual attention when blocked.
Auricular treatments are drawn from auricular medicine, a medicine developed in France by the physician Paul Nogier and advanced in Europe by the research of Dr Frank Bahr, MD, and colleagues.
Effectiveness of neuromodulation techniques
The effectiveness of neuromodulation techniques performed through the outer ear have been scientifically proven. This is because of the capacity to identify therapeutic specificity of auricular points, as linked to the somatotopic representation of the body and its ailments, as well as the ability to stimulate these points to influence specific aspects of the central nervous system.
From a health care professional’s perspective
The use of ear-based auricular stimulation in mental health services, including the US Department of Veterans Affairs, for the treatment of pain, addiction, and trauma, is most evident in the validation of neuromodulation via the ear through therapeutic electrical transduction devices. These special applications are particularly relevant to psychology because scientists recognise that everything is energy. The use of ear-based auricular treatment provides direct feedback on what is keeping traumatic stress-related symptoms stuck.
Using auricular acupuncture treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder
PTSD symptoms can impact a person's life in a dramatic way. A research study found that acupuncture can help treat PTSD. Auricula acupuncture, combined with usual treatment methods, was found to reduce PTSD symptoms. The use of auricular acupuncture in conjunction with eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing treatment can also be an effective way to decrease PTSD symptoms and improve general psychological status.
Acupuncture for PTSD
There are a multitude of auricular acupuncture points that specifically focus on different areas of the brain. For instance, there is a point located at the base of the ear, where the ear lobe attaches to the side of the head that is labelled the limbic point.
Improving mental health
There are techniques that therapists can use in the treatment of mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Auricular acupuncture, also known as Auriculotherapy stimulates specific points on the ear that help relieve symptoms associated with each mental disorder. Auriculotherapy is a safe, drug-free, and painless form of treatment with no side effects. Auriculotherapy provides the most dependable, clinically effective methods for treating various mental health disorders.
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing EMDR Geelong West
Eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is a one-of-a-kind therapy that is particularly successful in the treatment of trauma. It can, however, help with other mental health problems including:
How does eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing work?
The goal of eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing is to assist people with post-traumatic stress disorder by helping them re-experience past events without the associated emotional or physical distress. In these cases, the use of EMDR improves their mental health dramatically.
As the person focuses on a traumatic event, EMDR bypasses the trauma memory's stored neural circuit by activating an alternative circuit through lateral eye movements. This activation of new neural circuits interrupts the out-of-control nerve impulses that maintain anxious or fearful thoughts.
Auricular techniques, as adjunctive therapy for EMDR, are used to activate the same mechanisms, shown to help with associative memory recall, through EMDR and restoration of dual attention, bypassing any requirement for cognitive (e.g., prefrontal cortex) involvement.
Shannon Bowman is director of Create Balance Psychotherapy and Counselling and leads neuro-auricular methods for EMDR at his practice in Geelong West.
He has partnered with the Canadian Institute of Auricular Medicine (CIAM) to enhance this dynamic and highly effective treatment for mental health conditions. Shannon's passion is finding solutions to mental health problems through novel, innovative, complementary, and alternative medicine.
Shannon Bowman is the Director of SJB Clinical Consulting Pty Ltd,