What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an extensively researched psychotherapy that allows your brain to naturally heal from disturbing symptoms and emotional distress. Trauma is any event or situation that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, whether that is a major trauma or an “everyday trauma.” Often when we hear the word trauma, we think of major events such as war, violence, abuse, or natural disasters. However, trauma can also be “everyday” events that cause emotional and behavioral distress such as financial issues, feeling inadequate, an abrupt career change, conflict with a friend, etc.

When a distressing event occurs, the disturbing memory can get stuck or “frozen” in our brain and does not get properly filed. Parts of our brain do not get the message that the event is over and we are now safe. Our brain did not file the memory properly and thinks we may still be in danger. As a result, we may see the world differently, and our thoughts and emotions about ourselves and others are altered. Our logical, left side of the brain has told us we are no longer in danger, for example, but our creative and emotional right brain believes otherwise.

EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories so they are no longer “frozen” and allows normal healing to resume. The bilateral stimulation allows the left and right side of the brain to communicate and metabolize the disturbing memory so that it is filed correctly. The experience is still remembered, but the body sensations, emotions, and negative beliefs tied to the memory are healed and often altered.

Who Can Benefit from EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy helps children and adults of all ages. EMDR with children utilizes play therapy and age-appropriate methods during the therapy process.

Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of challenges:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
  • Chronic Illness and medical issues
  • Depression and bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain
  • Performance anxiety
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma and stress-related issues
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Violence and abuse

This list and a more detailed explanation of EMDR can be found at emdria.org.

What Should I Expect?

The therapist will walk you through a comprehensive history, including current disturbances you may be experiencing. Coping and stabilization skills will be taught and practiced. Often, there is time spent building up internal “resources” to help your nervous system and brain learn how to regulate yourself when feeling intense emotions. We will identify a “target list” of distressing memories and the negative beliefs associated with the memories and collaboratively work on which target we should begin first. Hand pulsars, headphones, or eye movements may be used to encourage bilateral stimulation of the brain. Any lasting body sensations will be addressed before setting up a future template to help the client feel confident when faced with a similar situation.

Helpful Videos

How EMDR can Resolve Traumatic Memories That Formed You

“Small Miracles” – EMDR With Children


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