Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR?

EMDR therapy is a phased, focused approach to treating traumatic and other symptoms by reconnecting the client in a safe and measured way to the images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations associated with an issue or trauma, which allows for the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution. It is based on the idea that symptoms occur when trauma and other negative or challenging experiences overwhelm the brain’s natural ability to heal. EMDR healing is facilitated and completed through bilateral stimulation.

How Does EMDR Work?

Through EMDR, individuals safely reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive to their lives. There are 8 phases of treatment and in the Rapid Eye Movement phase, the individual focuses on a disruptive memory and identifies the belief they hold about themselves. If it is connected to this negative memory (for example, in dealing with abuse, the person may believe, “I deserved it”) the individual then formulates a positive belief that they would like to have (“I am a worthwhile and good person in control of my life.”). All the sensations and emotions that go along with the memory are identified. The individual then reviews the memory while focusing on an external stimulus that creates bilateral eye movement.

Typically this is done by watching the therapist move two fingers or through the use of a Tacometer. After each set of bilateral movements, the individual is asked what they internally experienced or feel. This process continues until the memory is no longer disturbing or as disturbing to the individual. The individual is processing the trauma. The selected positive belief is then installed, via bilateral movement, to replace the negative belief.

Sessions typically last for an hour or 90 minutes. It is theorized that EMDR works because the “bilateral stimulation” by-passes the stuck area of the brain holding memories of the trauma that is preventing the brain from proper processing and storage of the memory. During EMDR, individuals process the memory safely moving toward peaceful resolution resulting in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and the negative thoughts about themselves that have grown out of the original traumatic experience.

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