Are you starting to embark on your healing journey and find yourself researching ways to jumpstart or accelerate the healing process?
You may have come across the terms Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Both are widely accepted and prominently used models in psychotherapy that help reprocess past experiences.
Both EFT and EMDR require the brain and body to reprocess your trauma by simultaneously stimulating both sides of your brain. Ultimately the aim is to allow yourself to view the full scope of an event.
When I discuss EMDR with my clients, we start by understanding the role rapid eye movement plays in processing our day. As you may know, the portion of deep sleep is known as REM-sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. When we reach this level of sleep, our body is essentially paralyzed outside of our eyes, which flicker back and forth as we process the day’s events. If that day was particularly traumatic, the events can get “stuck” and develop into recurrent nightmares, physical manifestations, or dramatic shifts in our personalities.
With EMDR, we want to tap into the brain’s ability to process and digest memories. During a session, you will discuss a problematic memory with a licensed professional while moving their fingers back and forth while you track with your eyes. Sometimes they may use a light bar, a set of buzzers, or ask you to tap your shoulders as an alternative. Regardless of the practice, the idea is to activate both sides of the brain and help us stop reliving our trauma, and allow us to move forward in our lives.
EFT is a similar practice but does not require the guidance of a licensed professional. Instead of following a finger back-and-forth with your eyes, you will be tapping on different meridian points while desensitizing yourself to the stressful memory. I like to think of it as a form of emotional acupuncture.
Now that you have a better understanding of the basic concepts let’s talk about some similarities and differences.
- Both focus on rewiring the brain to process traumas, fears, and limiting beliefs.
- Both incorporate the mind-body connection by stimulating the left and right hemispheres of the brain.
- Both use the Subjective Units of Distress Scale (SUDS) to measure progress objectively.
- Both focus on our earliest memories rather than our most severe ones. For example, if you fear public speaking rather than focusing on the worst sensation you’ve felt, you are asked to think of why this fear originated in the first place.
- While public speaking, the aim is to pin the earliest time the physical sensation was present in your body. Our oldest memories are the ones our brains return to the pull evidence to support their desire to catastrophize an upcoming decision.
- Anyone can be trained in EFT, making it more accessible. When I got certified in EFT, I took an 8-hour class with an exam at the end.
- EMDR, on the other hand, requires a master’s level therapist or a therapist working towards a master’s degree while under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Because EMDR tends to bring up intense memories, someone with experience in therapy must be present to help you stay in your body and prevent you from dissociating.
- In my experience, EFT is less intense because you are focusing on how the memory feels in your body rather than solely on the memory. EFT helps remove the feeling in your body to allow you to discuss then and further heal the trauma.
- EMDR, on the other hand, focuses on the image without talking or looking inward.
- EMDR “butterfly tapping” can be helpful to do at home but is more effective when done with a licensed professional.
- You can do EFT on your own. Many free resources on Pinterest and YouTube can help guide you through EFT tapping protocols. While there are YouTube videos that take you through EMDR sessions, I personally would not recommend these as I had had clients do them in the past and found themselves more triggered than ever before because there was no one present to help guide them out of their altered mental state.
Being trained in both, you might ask which I prefer or find most effective…
The answer is that you really can’t go wrong with either one! I practice EFT on myself regularly, as I don’t always have the opportunity to sit down with a licensed therapist to do EMDR. I recommend trying both and finding out which one works best for you.
The important thing is that you are actively striving to make yourself a better person!