Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an approach to psychotherapy that has been practiced in the U.S. and around the world for the past 25 years. It integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches, yet there are aspects of EMDR that are unique. In particular, the therapist leads a patient in a series of lateral eye movements while the patient simultaneously focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a 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 trauma (Emdria, 2020).
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved (Emdria, 2020).”
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue, or homework between sessions. EMDR, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Part of the therapy includes alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies (Emdria, 2020).
Learn about how EMDR therapy works, what it is like, and how widely it is recognized (Emdira, 2020).
Healing Trauma: EMDR Patients Share Their Stories
"Something changed the first time I had EMDR and if I could put one word to it ... it would be hope (Emdria, 2020)."
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