During Suicide Prevention Week, Therapy Threads Discusses the Benefits of EMDR Therapy
As we enter National Suicide Prevention Week, we hope to draw attention to the topic. The Semicolon Project makes an important clarification about suicide: “Suicide is a complex issue involving numerous factors and should not be attributed to any one single cause. Not all people who die by suicide have been diagnosed with a mental illness and not all people with a mental illness attempt to end their lives by suicide.”
Since there are many different causes of suicide, there are also many different ways to prevent suicide. The act of seeking therapy is always a great idea. EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a special kind of psychotherapy that can help to remove negative beliefs. Sometimes we can believe something about ourselves such as that we’re unlovable, unworthy, less than, etc. We may know that it’s wrong or untrue, but we can’t help the feeling which becomes truth. This therapy focuses on reprocessing the events of a trauma and then ridding of the beliefs around it. As trauma can be related to depression, EMDR is effective in treating it.
What is EMDR?
EMDR uses multiple techniques, including cognitive, talk therapy, interpersonal and experiential, with physical stimulation. In a typical session, the patient focuses on one traumatic memory for 15-30 seconds while initiating eye movement. This process is then repeated. Eye movement and physical stimulation is proven to transform events on an emotional levels due to a connection with biological mechanisms involved in REM sleep.
Think of it like this: when you cut your hand, your body creates a wound. If a repeated injury irritates the wound, it’s blocked from healing and it festers. However, once the block is removed, the healing process resumes. EMDR research has shown that you can recover emotionally the same way your body recovers from a cut. When your mental health system is blocked by the impact of a trauma, your emotional wound festers and causes intense suffering. But once the block is removed, you can heel again. EMDR helps to remove the block.
What are the benefits?
The treatment changes the thoughts associated with an event on an emotional level. A rape victim’s feelings of disgust can change to a real core belief of “I survived, and I am strong.” A veteran’s horror and shame can change to “I made a difference and I survived.” A bullying victim’s self-beliefs can change from self-hate and lowliness to power and love. According to EMDR Institute, “Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them.”
How can it prevent suicide?
Up to 800,000 people die by suicide each year, and 20 times that number attempt it. Case reports have shown that EMDR may make a difference in suicide prevention and for those who have been affected by suicides of family members, friends and colleagues. It has been shown to be effective for those dealing with distressing events or depression. It’s effective for those dealing with PTSD, which is how EMDR was originally discovered. For many, EMDR therapy may be a great aid when they can’t get rid of negative beliefs or a focus on traumatic events.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Remember, you are not alone, you can overcome trauma and it will get better.