EMDR – maybe you’ve heard of it? Maybe you’re curious, excited, or apprehensive. A quick Google search of ‘EMDR’ will elicit over 10 million results. So, there’s probably not much that we can share that hasn’t already been written, but still here is a summary from one of our therapists.
What Does EMDR Stand For?
EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. That’s a lot of big words to describe a type of therapy that is used to treat trauma, panic attacks, complicated grief, dissociative disorders, phobias, pain disorders, anxiety, stress reduction, and addictions. It is evidence-based which means extensive scientific research has proven its effectiveness. But it’s also a little bit of “neuro-magic.”
EM is for Eye Movement – This represents a unique aspect of treatment where the therapist asks you to think about a distressing memory or concern and then you rapidly move your eyes left to right. This may be done by following the motion of your therapist’s fingers or using some form of technology. The eye movement replicates a similar experience that occurs during REM sleep when our brains processes memories. However, with EMDR treatment you are fully conscious and aware. It is NOT hypnosis.
D is for Desensitization – Desensitization is the term used to describe what happens to your traumatic memories or worries. They will eventually lose their “charge” or intensity. You and your therapist will discuss how disturbing they feel, on a scale of 0-10, and the goal will be to continue eye movements until you can think about it and feel little to no emotion. EMDR can literally change the way memories are recalled. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting.
R is for Reprocessing – Most people who experience a trauma of any kind will have PTSD symptoms for a period of time, and then they will naturally dissipate. However, for some those traumatic memories remain disturbing and symptoms persist because the healing process got stuck. This “stuckness” is typically caused by negative beliefs that are formed as a result of the event. When something bad happens to us our brain tries to process and learn from it, just like it does with other experiences we have. However, trauma doesn’t make sense and the brain can create inaccurate or unhelpful beliefs about ourselves, others, or the world. For example: I should have done something. I can’t trust anyone. I’m not good enough. The world isn’t safe. I’m damaged. I have to be in control. Click here for a list of common negative beliefs, along with the emotionally healthy beliefs that can be reprocessed with EMDR.
EMDR Additional Resources
Whether you’re familiar with EMDR or just exploring, whatever has brought you to this site, we hope you leave with a greater understanding of this treatment and useful information that will help you decide if it’s right for you. Here are a few resources if you’d like to learn more:
TEDTalk – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOkSm90f2Do
Animation video explaining EMDR – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKrfH43srg8
EMDR International Association – https://www.emdria.org/
EMDR Consulting – https://www.emdrconsulting.com/
EMDR Institute – http://www.emdr.com/
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