What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. This is a rapid treatment for trauma.

How does it work?

When we experience something traumatic it gets locked in our nervous system. This is later triggered by something else going on in your life because your brain has not stored it correctly because it’s stuck. EMDR treatment allows your brain to unlock the trauma and store it correctly. This happens through successful reprocessing with a EMDR trained therapist who guides you through the process of recalling your traumatic memories and using bi-lateral stimulation to desensitize you to the trauma. This achieved through eye movements, tactile (tapping), or audio tone moving left to right. During this process your negative thoughts and body sensations associated with the memory are targeted as well until they are no longer disturbing. Common negative beliefs might be something like, “I’m responsible,” “I’m not safe,” or “I should have done something.” Successful processing results in the adoption of an appropriate positive belief to associate with the memory.

What does EMDR treat?

EMDR has been researched to effectively treat PTSD. Clinicians have found it to be effective in treating panic attacks, anxiety, depression, disturbing memories, sexual abuse, physical abuse. Click here for further research.

What are EMDR treatment sessions like?

EMDR begin with learning relaxation methods and helpful coping methods. This is followed by history taking and treatment planning that identifies the memories to be targeted. Trauma processing sessions include the remaining phases of treatment. The memory to be targeted is assessed using a standard protocol to identify specific parts of the memory. First the worst part of the memory is selected to represent the memory. Next the negative belief associated with the memory is identified. Then the client choses the appropriate positive belief desired to be paired with this memory. This is often the opposite of the negative belief. Then the client is asked to rate the validity of that positive belief on a scale of 1 to 7. The client also identifies emotions that come up with the targeted memory and he or she provides a rating of how disturbing the feelings are on a scale of 0 to 10. Finally the client notes where the disturbance is felt in his or her body. When all these parts are assessed the desensitization can begin using eye movements, tapping, or audio tones moving left to right rapidly. The client become desensitized to the memory while holding together in their mind the worst part of the memory, the negative thought, and the body sensation. Once the disturbance reaches a 0, meaning neutral or no disturbance, the therapist installs the positive belief. The client holds together the positive thought with the memory and receives bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tapping, or audio) until he or she rates a 7, meaning that the belief is completely true. Once this positive belief is strengthened, the therapist will ask the client to hold that belief with the memory while mentally scanning their body for other signs of disturbance. Any disturbance revealed in the body scan is desensitized until it dissipates from the body. At the end of the session the client participates in a calming or relaxation exercise as taught in the beginning of treatment.

How long does treatment last?

Your treatment depends on many factors. Some people have more complicated trauma histories than others. It also depends on your ability to cope with your symptoms. You may need more or less coping skill development than others. EMDR treatment is a journey that is different for each person; therefore your length of healing will vary.