What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement, Desensitization, and Reprocessing. It is an integrative form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for the treatment of trauma.
Our brains have a natural, self-healing process in place for recovering from traumatic memories and events. This recovery system involves communication between several structures within the brain, including the amygdala (which signals the alarm for stressful events), the hippocampus (which plays a major role in learning and memory, particularly memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes behavior and regulates emotions). Although many times traumatic experiences can be spontaneously processed and resolved, some experiences may not be processed and healed without additional support and help.
Stress responses, such as fight, flight, or freeze, are a natural part of our brain’s survival system. Sometimes, however, the distress associated with traumatic events lingers and persists through repeated and disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions. This may lead to feelings of overwhelm. It may feel as if you are stuck in time or the event is occurring in the present moment – even though it has been months or years since the event.
EMDR therapy helps activate the brain’s self-healing process to resolve these memories and allow normal recovery to resume. The incidents are still remembered, but the stress response from the original event is calmed and resolved.
EMDR is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain and allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. Part of the therapy includes a technique called bilateral stimulation - which involves alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps – to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Facilitating bilateral stimulation mimics the period of sleep referred to as rapid eye movement or REM sleep. During REM sleep, the mind processes recent events to create psychological restoration. Thus, EMDR seems to help the brain process trapped memories in order to allow normal information processing to resume. EMDR is often used to help clients uncover and process beliefs that developed as a result of relational traumas or childhood abuse and/or neglect. For more information, please visit emdr.com and emdria.org.
What does EMDR help?
EMDR was originally developed to help with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It has since proven useful for the treatment of many other conditions as well, including:
Sexual and/or Physical Abuse
None of the above symptoms or experiences fit you?
Do you experience distressing emotions that appear to you, and perhaps to others, to be excessive given the current situation? Do you tend to be highly reactive to certain triggers? Is there one or more dysfunctional beliefs you believe about yourself that, on an intellectual level, you know are not true?
If so, you may still be a good candidate for EMDR therapy to help you release what no longer serves you.