Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. It is a type of psychotherapy that helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that result from disturbing or overwhelming life experiences. This form of therapy is supported by many studies which have demonstrated that the mind can heal from psychological trauma in much the same way the body can heal from physical trauma. The process of EMDR can facilitate a rapid recovery from single event traumas, and can aid in healing from “complex” trauma, such as repeated experiences of abuse or neglect, as well. Much as the physical body knows how to heal, and simply needs the right conditions for this to occur, so too does the mind have a natural capacity to heal once barriers to recovery are addressed. EMDR therapy targets specific memories of trauma that have been “stuck” and are not fully processed. Once these memories have been fully processed, not only are barriers to healing removed, but the very experience that was once traumatic becomes a resource for growth and resilience. The survivor of abuse who once thought “it was all my fault” moves to believing and feeling strongly that “I survived, and I am strong.” Beneficiaries of EMDR not only experience the end of symptoms such as anxiety and flashbacks, but also positive changes in the way they think, feel and act.
The process of EMDR therapy involves several phases, the most noteworthy of which is the use of “bilateral stimulation” (usually in the form of eye movements), which are believed to stimulate the brain's natural information processing system. Once a particular traumatic memory is targeted, the therapist then asks the client to follow their fingers back and forth across the field of vision. Researchers believe that this process is similar to that which happens during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, in which memories and learning are thought to consolidate. During the eye movement phase of therapy associations begin to arise which are connected to the traumatic event, and disturbing thoughts and feelings are processed. As the process continues, clients frequently report a fading of disturbing images, a decrease in anxiety, awareness of positive aspects of the past, and increased feelings of calm when thinking about the memory.
Not all clients who seek help are appropriate for EMDR therapy. I will work with you to determine the best course of action to help you achieve your goals. If we decide that EMDR therapy is not a right fit for you, I’ll help you find other ways to address the wounds of the past.
If you would like to learn more about EMDR therapy, please consider the following resources:
EMDR International Association
EMDR Therapist Network