What is EMDR?

The first time someone explained EMDR to me, to be honest it sounded a little absurd. I had the opportunity to be trained in EMDR when I was in graduate school, but passed on the opportunity. I could not wrap my head around it, but every time I spoke to a professional that was trained in the practice or a client that had participated in it they were big believers. It was not until I took the plunge to get trained myself and actually participated in the process that I drank the cool aid.  

It is hard to put it simply, but I will try my best. When something devastating happens that is outside of our control, we call this trauma. Trauma memories are stored differently in our bodies and brains than non-traumatic memories. The trauma reactions, such as the thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences that were experienced during a catastrophic event become stored in the body which causes triggers and symptoms such as panic, anxiety, chronic pain and sleeplessness. For example, if a person gets in a severe car accident, this person may experience panic over driving, tightness in their chest while driving past the spot of the accident and nightmares about being in uncontrollable situations. On a cognitive level they may be fully aware that they are safe and the accident is over, but the memory is still deeply seated and causing they body to try and make sense of the unexpected terrified sensations they experienced during the time of the accident.  

EMDR is a somatic therapy, which helps address these body memories in a way that talk therapy cant. EMDR assists clients in revisiting the incidents that are contributing to their current day symptoms. This allows the memories to be stored in the body and the brain in the correct way. This correct storage, leads also helps reprogram fears and negative beliefs that contribute to symptoms.  

EMDR stands for “eye movement desensitization of reprocessing.” The method itself involves a therapist helping you experience a traumatic memory safely while using eye movements to address reprocess how the sensations are stored in your body. It may sound a little “woo woo” but the results I have seen with clients that were feeling stuck and triggered after years of talk therapy was enough proof for me to become a believer.  

In addition to trauma, EMDR therapy can bring relief to individuals dealing with –

  • Anxiety/ panic attacks
  • Phobias
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief
  • Future fears
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Disturbing dream material

To learn more about EMDR you can visit this resource page developed by the EMDR International Association.

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