Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a non-traditional but highly researched and effective method of psychotherapy that is proven to help people with trauma and distressing life situations (such as depression, anxiety and PTSD). It was created by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s and has been considered a highly effective evidence-based treatment for trauma. This type of therapy is designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic events and memories and target the root cause of distress and emotional pain.
Thinking of the brain as a computer: the computer takes in information, processes it and stores it in its memory. When a virus enters the computer, it freezes and can’t process information normally—the memory replays an endless loop that creates chaos and pain. Think of EMDR therapy as a reset to reconnect the wires in the right places to make the computer work perfectly again.
PTSD typically arises when a traumatic event occurs; the brain becomes so overwhelmed that it cannot process what is happening. The events’ memories become frozen in time and return in a fragmented form, as flashbacks and nightmares with the sensory experiences that accompany the actual event. This gives the sense of the actual event happening again and again. EMDR therapy helps to process those frozen memories using eye movement stimulation which promotes the brain to facilitate natural healing. I personally use a video of a green ball going back and forth on the computer screen with 528 Hz harmonic tones.
In a successful EMDR session, the intensity of the emotions attached to the original events are reduced, and the meaning given to them is reprogrammed on an emotional level. You can access those frozen memories through eye movement, feel the emotions present, work through them, and release them. Often EFT Tapping is used or the therapist can use meditation during the sessions.
PROS of EMDR Therapy:
- EMDR does not require the client to go into the same level of detail about their trauma as other trauma therapies may require
- EMDR can bring about more symptom reduction than other forms of treatment
- It is often a faster and more results-based oriented treatment than other forms of psychotherapy
- Although it is highly known and researched for trauma treatment, this type of therapy can help other conditions in which disturbing memories play a part
- It can be a stand-alone treatment or used in conjunction with other therapies such as CBT, DBT, mindfulness-based, art therapy, etc.
CONS of EMDR Therapy:
- Unfortunately, it does not work for everyone.
- Some find this experimental therapy strange and non-traditional and don’t find interest in receiving this kind of treatment.
- In the processing after or between treatments, EMDR can bring up painful memories and emotional pain and may cause temporary disturbances in sleep, mood and functioning.
What can EMDR help with?
- Sexual assault
- Violence and abuse
- Anxiety disorders (panic attacks, phobias, GAD)
- Mood disorders (bipolar disorder or depression)
- Borderline personality disorder
- Chronic illness/medical issues
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders
- Grief and loss
- Personality disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Sleep disturbances/nightmares
- Substance abuse/addiction
If this therapy seems like something that you think would help you on your journey, I would love to work with you! I offer both virtual and in-person EMDR sessions!