​​​​​        Dr. Gail Eastman  PhD        Registered Psychologist    

        A Better Life Consulting and Counselling     403-527-3936

A Better Life Consulting and Counselling Registered Psychologist individual and couple therapy 

Natural Processing  (Integrating Somatic therapy and EMDR)

  Ever noticed that your head and heart aren't on the same page? Have heard and said countless times - "I know this in my head, but my heart isn't buying it." Do you notice where you hold your stress/tension - back, shoulders, headaches etc? Well this is our body hanging on (it never goes away) until we really notice what is going on (it has taught us what we need to know). Natural processing helps to notice and process what is never going away through somatic therapy (noticing what is happening in our body) and EMDR. It focuses on the body, so your heart can eventually tell your head - I get it! This therapy is developed by Craig Penner, and it’s a game changer.


Concepts in Natural Processing

There are numerous concepts in natural processing – here are a few.

In nature, there is a drive to completion – a wanting to process, complete on every level. Try this… get into starters position for a race and wait for the starting pistol…and wait….and wait….and wait. You’re ready, wanting to complete the move and it never happens. What then? Most either report getting frustrated/angry or giving up. Your body wanted to complete the movement and it couldn’t. Our body also has a drive to completion for emotion, wanting to process. However, we often try and stuff or push down as it is uncomfortable or painful to feel what we are feeling. The difficulty with pushing it down is that it leaks out somewhere else (physical pain, anger, negative self-talk, anxiousness just to name a few). As Dr. Van Der Kolk so eloquently said it – the body keeps the score.


Triune Brain
The brain can be described in three parts – reptilian, limbic, and neocortex. When we are struggling, having difficulty focusing/concentrating the limbic system of our brain is in control. When the limbic system is running the show, we can’t understand verbal language. So our neocortex (self talk) can say whatever it likes and our body won’t hear it. Ever had this experience? Your neocortex will say ‘your safe’ or ‘not that big of a deal- just get over it’ but your body is screaming ‘I am not safe’ or ‘this is a catastrophe’. The struggle is that most of us will try to talk ourselves out of what we are feeling, and we can’t –because the limbic system is running the show. In order to get our limbic system to listen we need to through our body – somatic therapy.
Going through our body means being able to pay attention – having sustained awareness. Being able to pay attention to what is going on with our body, gives our body the opportunity to start the drive for completion. This means slow, spending time paying attention to physical feelings or movements vs. just brushing the surface.


EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR in itself, has been successfully used to treat trauma since 1987.
EMDR uses bilateral stimulation of the brain (for example - either by watching a hand or light move left and right, alternatively taping on body part such as knees). No one knows for sure how it works, just that it does. The thought is that the EMDR is similar movement of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep or dreaming.

EMDR is protocol driven. The standard EMDR protocol has 8 phases – history/planning, preparation (safety, relaxation), assessment (selecting target, negative and positive cognition, scales - validity of cognition and units of distress, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, re-evaluation. There are now numerous protocols focused on specific issues – pain management, addiction, etc. Natural Processing uses many of these techniques but is not protocol driven.

No therapy is a magic wand. Neither therapy will erase the memories of trauma, however, it can reduce (hopefully remove) most of the emotional distress.

What happens during an appointment?
Neither of us starts with an agenda. First, we decide on how the bilateral stimulation will be completed. If you’re comfortable, I sit across from you and alternatively tap on your knees. If not, we find another way or we start working to increase tolerance to include the bilateral stimulation. The process is slow, allowing awareness so not to push those uncomfortable feelings away. We follow what you notice, again no agenda, and we never try to force something to occur. Most people report being tired, sometimes exhausted at the end of session. We start by getting comfortable with uncomfortable.