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What is EMDR Therapy and What Does It Help?

About 7 of every 10 adults in the U.S. has experienced a potentially traumatic event — at least once in their lifetime. Trauma is extremely common and can be highly debilitating. It may result in negative outcomes for both your mental and physical health. Left untreated, trauma can impair your daily life in a chronic way.

The above realities are part of what makes Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) so important. EMDR is a powerful, effective, and brief method for treating people struggling with trauma and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Let’s take a closer look at this treatment option.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is technically in the same family as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) but it’s probably unlike anything you’ve tried before. It begins, of course, with getting to know each other and taking a history. From there, things go in an unexpected but incredibly effective direction.

The client is asked to recall and visualize a painful and traumatic memory. This will stir up sensations within you when the treatment’s physical aspect commences. You will be asked to move your eyes left and right, back and forth. The therapist, meanwhile, will use hand or finger movements to pace your eye movements as you continue to focus on the traumatic memory. (Some therapists may use a moving light or tapping sounds.)

This process simulates the state of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and has been found to facilitate the processing of unresolved memories. Over the course of a few sessions, you will find that the trauma associated with these memories lessens. That’s when you and your therapist will work to replace what you’re focused on.

As your negative memories resolve, you replace them with healthy thoughts. You continue with the eye and hand movements but now, you’re shifting the underlying emotions. No longer is the dominant sensation one of shame and pain. You can replace that with strength and positivity.

How Does This Work?

In a state of fight-or-flight, parts of your brain are more heavily affected than others. This results in memories being stored in a very fragmented way. Since EMDR stimulates both brain hemispheres, it can bypass where the memories are stuck. This empowers your brain to fully integrate the memories in a typical way. They are there but not in a way that is easily triggered or disabling.

man standing on beach by waterEMDR’s Success Rate

Research shows EMDR has measurable and lasting effectiveness in relatively few sessions. Some of the studies include:

  • Thanks to EMDR, some 90 percent of sexual assault victims reported relief from PTSD in only three sessions.
  • A Department of Veteran Affairs study with former and active soldiers found a reduction of PTSD symptoms by 78 percent in just 12 sessions.
  • Research sponsored by Kaiser Permanente showed that 77 percent of those with more than one trauma were symptom-free after six sessions. For single-trauma sufferers, every single of them showed no PTSD symptoms after six sessions.

What Else Does EMDR Help?

With such a stellar track record, EMDR has been applied to other conditions and issues. It has been found to have positive impacts on people struggling with:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorders
  • Low self-esteem and motivation
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Triggers and cravings
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disordered eating
  • Gender dysphoria

So, What’s Your Next Move?

If you have been suffering from trauma-related issues, EMDR might sound too good to be true. It’s unusual but its effectiveness is incredible. So, if you have questions, let’s connect. I invite you to reach out to set up a free and confidential consultation for EMDR Therapy. I can guide you through the basics and introduce you to the pathway of healing you’ve been looking for.