The State of Tennessee through the Building Strong Brains TN program has been making concerted efforts to promote practices for children, youth, and young adults by utilizing the latest brain science to prevent and mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), one of which is EMDR. This is important based on the findings of a 2012 ACE study conducted in TN which revealed that 52% of the statewide population had at least one ACE, while 21% had three or more ACEs.
Research has shown that experiences build the brain architecture which in turn supports lifelong learning, behavior, and health. Needless to say that adverse childhood experiences tend to take a negative toll on individuals’ health both physical and mental unless some intervention is done.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) encompass various toxic stressful events that individuals experience during the first 18 years of life. These and other traumatic experiences disrupt the safe and nurturing environments that children need to thrive. Exposure to ACEs can lead individuals toward adopting unhealthy habits including substance use, self-harm, and struggling with other mental health challenges. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) which have serious negative impact on individuals’ physical and mental health outcomes include different forms of child maltreatment including physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect as well as family dysfunction such as incarceration, divorce/separation, domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness.
When individuals have experienced extremely stressful or overwhelming situations such as a single event or over a long period of time, their natural coping mechanism can become overloaded. This overloading can result in the disturbing experiences remaining frozen in the brain or being “unprocessed”. The limbic system of the brain stores the unprocessed traumatic memories and feelings in a “raw” and emotional form. This could result in an inability to integrate incoming information leaving the sensory elements of the experience unintegrated and unattached. These sensory elements are prone to return whenever activated by current reminders or triggers. In summary, this is the reason a trauma survivor’s past seems to be constantly playing out in their present day-to-day life and relationships unfortunately without their conscious awareness of this.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment. It is effective in resolving strong emotional, cognitive, and bodily responses due to traumatic or significant life experiences. EMDR treatment focuses on the individual’s present, past, and future. It creates autonomy for clients and helps them trust their own insights.
Facts about EMDR
EMDR is premised on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model which focuses on the brain’s natural healing. The ability which allows people to constantly learn, taking past experiences, and updating them with present information. However, past emotionally charged experiences often interfere with the updating process. EMDR breaks through that interference and helps let go of the past and update your experiences to a healthier present perspective.
- EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. It helps normal information processing to resume such that with successful EMDR (or, reprocessing), a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when they remember the event.
- EMDR is a structured, eight-phased treatment modality that uses a set of procedures to organize your beliefs, emotions, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Then uses bilateral stimulation (BLS) such as eye movements, tapping, or audio tones – to help you effectively work through disturbing memories. EMDR is big on providing resources to clients that would help them manage their emotional disturbances both within and outside of therapy sessions. Several adaptations have been made in terms of engaging children in activities and using child-friendly language to help children work through disturbing memories, thoughts, feelings, and sensations they experience due to trauma triggers using different techniques.
- EMDR is a modality that has proven to be effective with children and adults alike.
- EMDR is very amenable to telehealth. For years, EMDR has been using technology such as Thera-tappers and headphones for bilateral stimulation. Over the years, several resources developed to make doing EMDR online very effective.
At HopeNation, we support individuals in the State of Tennessee to address the impact that ACEs and other traumatic experiences have had on their mental and emotional health by providing quality counseling services that engage the use of evidence-based modalities such as EMDR.