Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has been shown to be an effective treatment for a variety of mental health conditions, and it is a widely used therapy for treating PTSD. It allows information stored in separate areas of the brain to flow together, enabling the client to heal. A key tenet of EMDR is that the brain will process to its natural healing place.
EMDR was developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, a psychologist. One day, after walking in the woods, she noticed that she felt much calmer and postulated that it was the motion of her eyes constantly scanning the environment that had produced this sense of well-being. EMDR is now an evidence-based therapy through hundreds of confirming studies.
While the exact mechanism of how EMDR works is not really known, it is clear that it allows clients to access forgotten or stored memories and emotions that have been denied or defended against. During processing, the client is able to make new meaning of a traumatic event, freeing them from where they are often stuck.
For example, I might’ve been in a car accident, and I keep going over the moment of impact and how scared I was. What my brain didn’t consciously notice at the time was that the police came within minutes and I was able to walk out of the car so was physically OK. With EMDR, the new realization takes the place of the old fixation. So rather than concentrating on the shock of the accident, I’m now able to be grateful that it wasn’t worse, and that I am safe.
EMDR therapy is designed to help us process these memories and experiences more efficiently. The therapist will lead the client through a series of eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones while the client focuses on a specific memory or event. The therapist will then help the client process the experience in a more positive way. In EMDR therapy, the therapist is more of a guide, helping the client along their own individual path of healing.
How It Is Done
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment that uses eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) to guide healing. The clinician and the client will together determine which memory to target first.
EMDR is different from other types of treatment in that it does not require the person to talk about their trauma in detail or do homework outside of therapy. EMDR therapy helps the person to access their own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes to gain insights and healing. It can be used to heal incidents in the past, the present, or anticipated in the future.
Not everyone is a candidate for EMDR treatment, or is able to begin it immediately upon meeting with a therapist. There is preparatory work and assessments to do to determine the person’s readiness for EMDR.
EMDR is a powerful, effective treatment for trauma and stress-related disorders. It is often a shorter-term treatment that can provide lasting relief from symptoms. More importantly, it is a non-invasive, drug-free treatment . EMDR can be an effective treatment for people of all ages.
EMDR is used to help people heal from trauma and other disorders. EMDR can be used to help people process and work through their trauma so that they can move on with their lives and potentially prevent future trauma.
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