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EMDR therapy can help survivors of natural disasters

Sally weakens to tropical storm, but officials worry heavy rains could cause flooding
Posted at 2:06 PM, Oct 10, 2023

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the number of natural disasters per year has been rising since the 1980s.

Unfortunately, we can't control the weather, and sometimes these natural disasters come with traumatic experiences, but something we can control through help from licensed professionals is how our brain processes that trauma.

Rebecca Kase is the owner of an EMDR training and consulting company. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It's a therapy that focuses on how our nervous system stores memories.

"When the nervous system gets really stressed out and overwhelmed, it impacts our ability to store memories in an adaptive way," Kase said. "So that means those memories get stored in a way where they get very easily activated and triggered. And it kind of activates all that stuff in our nervous system."

EMDR has been shown to be effective for people diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety, addiction, depression and eating disorders. However, Kase says you don't even need to have a diagnosis to benefit from the therapy.

It works by helping a person reprocess traumatic memories through something called bilateral stimulation.

"As you think of the memory, your therapist may be moving their fingers and you follow those bilateral movements," Kase said. "We also now use tapping, or they can hold these buzzers and they buzz back and forth, or even tones that you like put headphones on and these tones beat back and forth in your ears."

Research shows if you cause a lot of distraction while thinking of a distressing memory, it reduces its emotional intensity. So that memory just doesn't bug you anymore.

If you're interested in EDMR resources, visit the EMDR International Association to find an EMDR therapist in your area or via telehealth.