How does EMDR heal multiple traumas so quickly?


The short answer is momentum. EMDR trauma therapy builds momentum with each memory healed, so that when the "log is kicked," the unstuck river of healing begins to flow more and more, carrying away the logs, sticks, and twigs of other traumatic memories with greater and greater power.

When your first traumatic memory is healed with EMDR, I like to say that an "EMDR angel" starts to sit on your shoulder. This little guy starts to whisper in your ear: "Hey, it's OK--even if this next memory seems intimidating, remember, it's just a memory. And if it's just a memory, the same thing can happen to it that happened to the last memory! It can go to the past and never bother you again. Just let what happens, happen, and EMDR will help your brain send it to the past, too." What this metaphor is saying is that progressive victories over trauma build up confidence and mental strength, because in EMDR, those victories are the client's and not those of the therapist.

Many other trauma therapies either numb out memories, or at best resolve them, but EMDR takes the hurt and intentionally replaces it with strength--as defined by the client. The cause of the "stuckness" of trauma is not the disturbance, that's just the symptom. The root of trauma, the teeth that make the memory both hurt and refuse to let go, are the distorted ways the memory makes the client think about himself/herself and the world. EMDR addresses this issue head on, which no other therapy does, and therefore, the concept of momentum is quite unique to EMDR. Here's what's amazing compared to other therapies:

1) EMDR is faster than other therapies, and has a better success rate.

2) EMDR can resolve multiple traumas of the same type, all at once.

3) EMDR doesn't leave a hole where the trauma was, it gives strength.

A popular cognitive therapy "works" by having the client re-live the memory over and over for many sessions, even as homework, until the brain is simply numb. Oh yeah, and it only works 60% of the time. And that's just for one memory!

EMDR trauma therapy gets at the root of what makes the brain vulnerable to trauma for all memories, turning a weakness into a strength. Traumatized individuals are much more vulnerable to future trauma--that's the weakness. This is due to an altered perception of the world, as explained above. Traumatized individuals don't choose to think this way, but no amount of arguing or traditional therapy will change it. For instance, many soldiers who get PTSD were abused or neglected as children, while soldiers with better childhoods were less vulnerable to trauma. If one memory is stuck (trauma), other bad things that happen are more likely to stick (become traumatic). Altering that dynamic when healing a trauma with EMDR restores or even increases a positive viewpoint. That's a victory, not a "numbing." In EMDR, when victories begin to build, there is a unique awareness growing in the client that no matter how scary a memory seems, one is just as able to be put in the past as another. That confidence builds momentum.

After observing the phenomenon of "momentum" in the EMDR advanced certification process, I noticed that proper preparation before the therapy actually starts the momentum rolling right from the start. You can read my recent blog posts on "The Shadow of Shame," "The Two Vultures," and the "Flash Technique" to learn more about what preparation looks like. When preparation is used, healing even your earliest traumatic memory doesn't have to be that big of a battle. What are you waiting for?