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EMDR: What Do I Need to Know

Have you ever heard the term EMDR and wondered what it stands for?

EMDR is a popular treatment method in therapy that is used to treat things like trauma, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, and more. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It was developed to help people reprocess traumatic or disturbing events. The premise of the treatment is this: Trauma lives in the body, but we don’t always know how to process it and it can get stuck, causing mental distress. Research has shown that stimulating both sides of the brain can help to process information more effectively. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, through eye movements, hand tapping, and audio stimulation to engage both sides of the brain. EMDR allows the brain to heal from psychological trauma the same way the body heals from physical trauma. 

One of the biggest benefits is that it works quickly. People used to have to spend years in a therapy office rehashing their trauma, but in just a few EMDR sessions they can experience significant relief. It’s been proven to be so effective that the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association recognize it as a form of treatment for trauma. 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing might sound intense, and it certainly can be daunting to revisit your disturbing memories. It’s a type of treatment that is done right in the therapy office, so you don’t need to go anywhere special to feel its effects. One common misconception is that EMDR is hypnosis – that is not the case. During an EMDR session, the client is very awake and very conscious, unlike the trance state seen in hypnosis. 

EMDR has 8 phases. They are: 

  1. History and Treatment Planning
  2. Preparation
  3. Assessment
  4. Desensitization
  5. Installation
  6. Body Scan
  7. Closure
  8. Reevaluation

In your first sesion, you’ll discuss the details of the treatment and your therapist will gather information about you and your current situation. You’ll also talk about your goals for treatment. In the next session, you will start preparation for EMDR. Preparation includes providing coping skills so that when something tough comes up in or out of session, you can deal with it effectively. Once you feel prepared to dive in, you will move on to reprocessing. During a session, the client is asked to either follow the clinician’s hand to produce back and forth eye movements, or by listening to bilateral tone or feeling bilateral taps. 

Our bodies know how to heal from physical and psychological injuries, but sometimes they needs some assistance. Imagine you’ve broken your arm and need a cast. Your arm heals itself, but the cast helps guide it into place and keep it there so the healing can happen. EMDR is the same. EMDR helps move along disturbing or distressing events from where they’re stuck in your psyche, and allows you to process them and move forward. 

How do you know if EMDR is right for you?

If you ever feel like you’re stuck and can’t move forward, EMDR might be a good choice. EMDR is also helpful for people living with traumatic memories, PTSD, anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression. If you’re open to learning more about how trauma has affected your body + brain, and if you’re ready to move through past events, EMDR might be a good choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re not ready to dive deep into traumatic events. if you have a substance abuse problem, or if you have an untreated mental health concern, it might not be the best choice. If you’re not sure if it’s right for you, you can always get in touch with a therapy office to chat through your options for feeling better. 

EMDR treatment might sound intense, but it can actually be a lot less intimidating once you know what it means. EMDR allows your brain to use it’s normal healing processes  while nudging along disturbances or trauma that’s stuck so they can be reprocessed. Reprocessing trauma can offer profound relief in a much shorter timeframe than traditional methods of talk therapy. Learn more about EMDR and how you can benefit here.

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