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What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma.
About EMDR Therapy
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process
involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the
hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the
prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic
experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without
help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a
disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of
overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain
process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered,
but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.”
How is EMDR different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue, or homework between
sessions. EMDR, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting
from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. EMDR therapy is
designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Part of the therapy includes
alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in
fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy helps children and adults - all ages.
Therapists use EMDR with a wide range of challenges, including:
● Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
● Chronic Illness and medical issues
● Depression and bipolar disorders
● Dissociative disorders
● Eating disorders
● Grief and loss
● Performance anxiety
● Personality disorders
● PTSD and other trauma and stress related issues
● Sexual assault
● Sleep disturbance
● Substance abuse and addiction
● Violence and abuse
Experiencing EMDR Therapy
After the therapist and client agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, and begin to work together, the
client will be asked to focus on a specific event. Attention will be given to a negative image, belief,
and body feeling related to this event, and then to a positive belief that would indicate the issue was
resolved. While the client focuses on the upsetting event, the therapist will begin sets of side-to-side
eye movements, sounds, or taps. The client will be guided to notice what comes to mind after each
set. They may experience shifts in insight or changes in images, feelings, or beliefs regarding the
event. The client has full control to stop the therapist at any point, if needed. The sets of eye
movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event becomes less disturbing.
A typical EMDR therapy session lasts from 60-90 minutes. EMDR therapy may be used within a
standard talking therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.