What is EMDR?

Brain Sketch

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched and effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety disorders and depression. EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain.

Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories but sometimes that process gets short-circuited.  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 being back in that moment or 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. Rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, EMDR therapy allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. 


During an EMDR session, attention will be given to a negative image, belief and body sensation related to the event, and then to a positive belief that would indicate the issue was resolved. While the client focuses on the negative material, the therapist will begin sets of side-to-side eye movements, called bilateral simulation, using lights, 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 bilateral stimulation is  repeated until the event becomes less disturbing. EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing event and the client has full control to stop the process at any point, if needed. 

EMDR therapy helps with a wide range of challenges, such as:

  • Performance anxiety

  • PTSD

  •  Sexual assault

  • Single event traumas (i.e. accidents)

  • Stress-related issues

  • Substance abuse and addiction

  • Violence and abuse

  • Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias

  • Chronic Illness and Pain

  • Depression and mood disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Grief and loss

  • Injuries

  • Heath Issues/Diagnoses