What does EMDR stand for?

Eye Movements – Part of the treatment involves watching the therapist’s finger or a light bar move back and forth while you are processing a memory. Now it appears that the beneficial effects of EMDR are facilitated by the stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Eye movements accomplish this as do experiencing bilateral, alternating taps or tones. 

Desensitization refers to the removal of the emotional disturbance associated with a traumatic memory.

Reprocessing refers to the replacement of the unhealthy, negative beliefs associated with traumatic memories, with more healthy, positive beliefs. 

What is EMDR?

EMDR is a type of psychotherapy used to treat troubling symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, guilt, anger, depression, sleep disturbances, and flashbacks that are the result of traumatic experiences. EMDR therapy has been proven to be effective in reducing these chronic symptoms that follow trauma and the benefits appear to be permanent. 

How does EMDR work?

Research has been done and continues to be done to understand how EMDR works. It is known that the brain has a natural mechanism for processing disturbing events. When a traumatic event is overwhelming, the brain may not be able to process it in the usual way. That is why severely traumatized people often find themselves stuck in disturbing memories long after the traumatic event has passed. Research suggests that an important part of the natural trauma processing happens during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, which provides alternation stimulation of the right and left hemispheres of the brain. During this time information is processed and stored into long-term memory. This may help to explain why EMDR therapy seems to jump-start the brain’s natural healing ability. This allows the traumatic memory to be stored in long-term memory in a healthy way without the negative emotions and beliefs. 

When is EMDR appropriate?

There are two types of trauma, big “T” trauma and little “t” trauma. Big “T” traumas are the major horrific events, like combat, rape, or the loss of a loved one. Little “t” traumas are the smaller everyday chronic horrors, like daily negative childhood messages leading a child to grow up believing he or she will never be good enough. EMDR can help heal both types of trauma. EMDR therapy can be a very intense emotional experience but only temporarily. It is not appropriate for those who are unwilling or unable to tolerate disturbing emotions. An EMDR therapist must take a thorough history to determine if and how EMDR can be used as part of an overall treatment plan. 

What does it help with?

EMDR treatment can help people who have experienced any of the following: 

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Chronic worrying
  • Compulsions
  • Panic Disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Divorce
  • History of being bullied as a child
  • Phobias
  • Anger
  • Unresolved grief
  • Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse
  • Victim of a crime
  • Witness to a violent or traumatic event
  • Overwhelming fears
  • Addictions
  • Abandonment or neglect issues
  • Disturbing memories

How long does it take?

EMDR therapy can vary but many people experience some relief after the first few sessions once the processing part has begun. On average, people can resolve their symptoms after 6-12 sessions. Sessions are scheduled for an hour (50 minutes) each week. Treatment time can vary depending on the amount and severity of the trauma that the person has experienced over their life time. 

Has EMDR been researched?

EMDR is now the most researched treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many scientific studies have shown it is effective and long lasting. EMDR therapy has validation from the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the Department of Defense and the Veteran’s Administration when it comes to treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For more information on research you can visit www.emdr.com.