How EMDR Can Help

What is EMDR and how can it help me?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and it is considered one of the best approaches to resolving trauma. Often, trauma from the past can have a negative hold on present day happiness and functioning if left untreated. You may find yourself in unfulfilling relationships or you may experience uncomfortable or intolerable emotions. And most likely, memories of really hard times like abuse or neglect are being triggered in present day. EMDR is an efficient way of clearing these disturbing memories so that the trigger is no longer there! The result can be fulfilling relationships and more personal happiness and joy.

What is an actual EMDR session like?

1. The therapist will do a thorough history and assess how well you are currently managing with the problem, and with your life in general.

2. During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session.

3. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event.

4. The therapist facilitates the directional movement or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experience and values.

5. Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for example, “I did the best I could.” During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.

What kind of problems can EMDR Treat?

EMDR can treat many conditions: Complicated Grief, Addictions, Eating Disorders, Pain Disorders, Performance Anxiety, Stress Reduction, sexual and physical abuse, phobias, panic attacks, disturbing memories.

How long does EMDR take?

One or more sessions are needed for the therapist to see if EMDR is the appropriate treatment. The therapist will discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method.

A typical EMDR session lasts from 50 to 90 minutes. The type of presenting problem, life circumstances and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as treatment all by itself.

Does EMDR really work?

Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. An agency with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cites EMDR as evidence based practice for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety and depression symptoms. Research has shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment.

How does EMDR work?

No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does normally. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.

EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.