What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.*

What types of issues can EMDR help with?

EMDR was recently recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and there is strong evidence that EMDR has helped people all over the world with a range of other issues, including depression, anxiety, grief and loss, fears and phobias, self-esteem, relationship injuries, and even performance enhancement for sports and career.

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 ordinarily. 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. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, 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.*

What happens during an EMDR session?

Just as EMDR assists the brain with its natural processing of emotional information, the EMDR therapist assists the client in their healing process by becoming a partner on a journey to release past trauma from the client's nervous system. A typical EMDR session begins with the therapist gently guiding the client to pinpoint a problem or event that will be the target of the treatment. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what s/he saw, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what the current negative thoughts and beliefs are about that event. The client simultaneously focuses on an alternating bilateral stimulus (ABS) and the disturbing material, and 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.

The EMDR technique does two very important things. First, it "unlocks" the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and second, it helps the brain to successfully process the experience. Sets of ABS continue 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.

How long does EMDR last?

One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 50-90 minutes. Length of therapy is on a case by case basis depending on type of issues, current life circumstances and previous history of trauma.

Please contact the therapist to see if you are a candidate for EMDR Therapy.

*Excerpts from www.EMDRIA.org.