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What is EMDR Therapy?

There are several different therapeutic approaches that our therapists are trained in and use in clinical practice. We are proud to have two Mental Health Therapists that are trained to offer EMDR as a therapeutic intervention. You may be wondering if EMDR is a good fit for you. This blog will provide an overview of EMDR and answer some questions you may have.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is an abbreviation for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapeutic intervention that was created by Francine Shapiro and is not a standard form of talk therapy. EMDR is based on the use of bilateral stimulation. Often times it is done by having the client move their eyes back and forth but could also be done by tapping the clients knees or having them hold buzzers in their hands. 

EMDR is often seen as a faster treatment when compared to other modalities. Though some people may only need a couple sessions, it is important to know that every person responds in a unique way and some people may need more.

EMDR, helps you learn from negative experiences from the past, works through triggers and memories that are distressing, and then incorporates an action plan so you can excel and function at your full potential.

What is EMDR used for?

Trauma is a devastating and distressing experience that many people experience in their lives. When a traumatic event occurs, our brain processes the information we see, feel, and hear and then stores it in our memory. When a person experiences a traumatic event, it can create limiting beliefs, negative emotions, flashbacks, nightmares, and a decrease in energy. After a traumatic event, a person may also run into triggers that can create an emotional reaction. EMDR is a therapeutic approach that is typically used to focus on negative feelings and recovery from traumatic events. Although it is specifically used for trauma, it can also be used to help improve negative life situations such as rejections, failures, and stress (Maxfield, 2008).

What to expect in your sessions

If you are thinking that EMDR might be a good fit for you, you may be wondering what your sessions would entail. EMDR uses an eight-phase approach and focuses on addressing the experiences that are stored in our memories (Maxfield, 2008). The full treatment approach involves working through past experiences that are forming the distressing issues and then creating a way to look at the memories. The eight phases include the following steps,

  1. Addressing your history, needs, and coming up with a plan
  2. Preparing you for the treatment
  3. Assessing which parts of your memory need to be attended to
  4. Desensitization
  5. Cognitive installation
  6. Body scan
  7. Closure
  8. Re-evaluation  

The evidence behind the protocol

When looking for a therapy model that may fit our needs, some of us want to know if there is evidence to support its effectiveness. Francine Shaprio shared that controlled research studies have proven that EMDR is an effective treatment for people with PTSD. Individuals who have suffered from PTSD and other traumatic life events have reported improvements in their daily functioning after receiving EMDR treatments (Shapiro, 2008) Specifically it is has shown the levels of self-efficacy and well-being were more prominent over anxiety and depression.

If you are interested in exploring EMDR for yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for more information or with any questions you may have at info@healmyheart.ca.

References 

Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, Third Edition : Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (Vol. Third edition). New York: The Guilford Press. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy.cityu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=1636433&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Hensley, B. (2015). An emdr therapy primer, second edition : From practicum to practice. Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Maxfield, L. (2008). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. In F. T. Leong (Ed.), Encyclopedia of counseling (Vol. 1, pp. 199-202). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412963978.n65

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: https://www.emdrtraining.ie/what-is-emdr-therapy/

What I learned From My Dad’s Death

On September 1, 2012, I woke up feeling empowered and excited, as it was the last weekend before my first year of University. I had been looking forward to University for a few years now, and I couldn’t believe the time had come. It was a beautiful morning, crisp fresh air, birds chirping, while I enjoyed a morning coffee on the deck with my dad. We enjoyed a conversation about my goals for the upcoming year before I left that morning for a weekend getaway.

Who knew, in a few hours, what started as a beautiful day was going to be one of the cloudiest and worst days of my life. When I arrived in Calgary, my mom called me and told me my dad had a massive heart attack after his soccer game earlier that afternoon. I could hear the fear and udder sadness in my mom’s voice and I desperately wished I was home to be there with her and my sister.

My dad was in the hospital for a few days before he suddenly died on September 5th. I will never forget hugging my dad and saying goodbye for the last time. I was confused, devastated, and terrified to imagine what my life was going to be like without him. I just wanted time to stop because I was not ready to face the next day.

During this devastating time in my life, I had learned some valuable life lessons about grief and loss. Some information I discovered on my own, and some I acquired from people who specialized in loss.

Death and loss is inevitable: I always thought that you could avoid loss, or that it would never happen to me, especially at a young age. Sounds silly right? I quickly learned that loss is an inevitable life transition we will all experience at some point. After understanding that loss was inevitable I also became aware of several other losses that had impacted my life. After reflecting upon how I healed from those losses, I realized how important it was to move through the pain of the death of my dad, rather than avoid it.

You don’t have to be strong: One of the first comments I heard after my dad died was, “It is time for you to be strong for your family.” At 18 years old, I had never experienced a loss of this magnitude. I mean, it was my dad! I didn’t know how to absorb that comment. But because I trusted the advice given to me, I began to act strong. Days, weeks, and months went by and I was being as strong as I could, but I was not feeling any better, and neither was anybody else. I realized that being strong was a distraction from how I was really feeling. It was a way for me to avoid my feelings and bury them deep down inside. When I stopped acting strong and listened to my heart and emotions, I understood why I was so devastated and what was hurting me the most about my dad’s death.

Time does not heal: I had heard several times, “It will get better soon” and “Just give it time”. These comments sound promising and hopeful, especially during a time of great sadness, but the simple fact of time passing was not enough to heal my heart. I could have spent the last six years waiting for the day that it was going to “get better”, but instead I took action, within time, to heal and move beyond the pain of my dad’s death. I acknowledged what was keeping me stuck in my pain and I bravely took the actions of the Grief Recovery Method®. It was an emotional investment that changed my life forever.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad. That is completely healthy and natural. I can’t help but see him in myself every single day. I can still hear his voice in the back of my head cheering me on and offering me advise in the big decisions I am making in my life. If I would not have acknowledged my feelings and took the brave steps to move forward from my pain, I would be struggling to keep him in my everyday life without feeling complete pain and isolation. The biggest lesson I have learned from his death, is that it is okay to move forward. It is okay to move beyond the pain and the suffering and live a full and wonderful life. Today, I remember my dad for who he was in life, not just in death, and I cherish all of the fond memories I shared with him.

If you are curious about the actions I took that changed my life, please contact me at gina@healmyheart.ca and visit our website for more information at www.healmyheart.ca.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Psychology Intern and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: http://www.christianparenting.org/articles/eight-great-daddy-daughter-dates-for-the-purposeful-parent/

Why Exciting Transitions Can Also Cause Sadness

The Grief Recovery Institute defines grief as the conflicting feelings caused by the end or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Conflicting feelings may include feeling sadness, anger, and relief at the same time, or any variation of emotion.

When I first read this definition of grief, it resonated with several changes I have experienced throughout in my life.  I will never forget the day I graduated with my degree; I walked onto the stage and embraced what was one of the proudest moments if my life. Although I felt proud and happy, I could not ignore my feelings of sadness and grief.  I thought to myself, “What is wrong with me, that I am feeling sad on one of the best days in my life!?” I realized in that moment that I was saying goodbye to the “student life” that I had lived for five years and the lifestyle that came with it.

There are many milestones and special moments we may experience throughout our lives that may bring about several emotions at one time. Please know that this I completely normal and natural and that there is nothing wrong with you.

Some common experiences that often create conflicting feelings within us, include:

Having a baby: Having a baby is one of the most beautiful experiences in life and it also brings about a massive lifestyle change. Many women and men express feeling a loss of freedom, loss of independence, loss of identity, loss of connection in their marriage, and a general loss of lifestyle. Some parents also choose to stay home with their child, experiencing a loss of job or career. It is important to acknowledge that this significant life transition naturally creates a number of emotions within us, and that it is important that we process and share these emotions with trusted others.

Retirement: At 21 my bank called me and wanted to set up an appointment to open up an RRSP. I remember thinking, “That is crazy, I am only 21, and I am not thinking about retirement yet!” During our early and middle adulthood we spend our years working and saving for retirement. Many of us fantasize about what it will be like one day when we can spend all of our free time travelling and pursuing our passions and hobbies. What we aren’t generally prepared for with retirement, is the loss of purpose, loss of meaning, loss of identity, and loss of finances that many often experience. Again, this is completely normal and natural. Any time we experience a change in a familiar pattern of behavior (ie. Having a routine; going to work every day), we grieve. So it’s no question why several people who retire end up going back to their job, get a bridge job, or begin volunteering to restore their sense of purpose and meaning again.

Dietary changes: In today’s society we hear more and more about specialty diets such as Vegan, Paleo, Gluten- Free, Dairy Free etc. For some, making dietary changes can be a rewarding and exciting time because you are taking the steps to live a healthier life for your body. I know when I decided to be vegetarian I was so happy with how my body felt and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Unfortunately, these changes can also make us feel isolated, alone, and afraid of being judged by others. It is normal to feel alone and frustrated when you do not have as many options for eating out, or you go to someone’s house for family dinner and they haven’t considered your dietary needs. Any major change we experience can bring about new challenges in our lives, so it is important to address these with a trusted friend or family member and to know that your feelings are valid and normal.

Starting a business: Starting a new business can bring about several emotions within us; some of which we may not even anticipate, including excitement, fear, and overwhelm. You may be pursuing your greatest dream, but don’t realize the significant amount of time, commitment, and money it takes to start and grow a successful business. The loss of time, loss of comfort, and loss of security leaving a corporate or 9-5 job can be very stressful and overwhelming. This leap into business and entrepreneurship although very rewarding is also very challenging. These feelings are normal and natural given the circumstances and should be shared with a trusted individual or mentor.

These are just a few examples of some of the happiest and most exciting times in our lives that can also create feelings of grief.

If you are struggling to work through your conflicting feelings caused by any major change or transition in your life, we are equipped with the emotional and intellectual tools to support you in moving forward successfully.

Contact our office at 780-288-8011 for your free telephone consultation and to book an appointment. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for more information about our services and specialties.

This article was written by Gina Baretta, Psychology Intern and Certified Grief Recovery Specialist®, and edited by Ashley Mielke, Owner and Director of The Grief & Trauma Healing Centre. Visit www.healmyheart.ca for information about our grief counselling services and Grief Recovery Method® Programs. 

Photo credit: Nevada Corporate Filing Solutions (http://registerednevadaagents.com/Start_Ups.php) 

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