MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — As simple as it looks, therapists and patients claim this treatment of taps, touches and other techniques can help trauma patients heal.
Elizabeth Wood, PhD, is a Licensed Professional Therapist with AltaPointe who practices Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Wood said EMDR is very effective in treating patients who’ve undergone trauma.
“You’re not changing what happened but, you’re changing what the trauma makes the person believe about themself,” said Wood.
EMDR uses bi-lateral stimulation. Bi-lateral stimulation happens when a therapist activates both sides of a patient’s brain by having their eyes follow a finger, light or hand tapping. The patient moves their eyes from side to side as they are asked to recall their painful experience.
“She asks you, remember yourself, remember what that looked like. What was going on? How did it make you physically feel,” said Trauma Survivor Alicia Tappan, who likens it to watching a slow-motion black and white horror film.
“But when it’s done, you kind of go okay take a breath. Now, what were you feeling and I remember being like I was petrified. I was nervous. I was shameful. You know, I had a lot of guilt,” said Tappan.
However, the technique has allowed her to mentally separate herself now, from her younger self, who experienced childhood trauma years ago. The re-wiring of her memories opens the door for healing.
“I’m able to mentally go, this isn’t happening right now. I don’t need to have these nightmares,” said Tappan.
By articulating the feelings from the trauma in a safe environment, the brain can reprocess the memories and put them where they belong, even when triggers or trauma cues occur anew.
“So, I can almost go back to the memory of when I was getting my brain re-wired during the EMDR session. So, if I’m in high anxiety and a lot of amped-up feelings right now, I can kind of, it’s in my brain. Just go remember she’s safe. Remember, she’s okay. I’m just having a huge emotion right now. I look like a four-year-old. It’s okay and even though they’re warranted, they don’t deserve to live and be alive all the time. It needs to pass, it’s the past,” said Tappan.
Tappan is 37 now. Her trauma occurred at age 17. She believes if she had undergone EMDR therapy sooner, it would have saved her a lot of heartache and prevented turmoil in her life. Dr. Wood said EMDR is also being used for depression.