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What is Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing -EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a unique therapy that has been extensively researched and proven effective in the relief of debilitating emotional symptoms. As an EMDRIA trained EMDR therapist, I utilize a set of standardized protocols to assist clients who have experienced extreme trauma such as active combat, personal assault, accidents and surgeries, leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR is an effective treatment for those who have experienced earlier chronic traumas such as abuse and neglect. It can also be used for smaller traumas of childhood that have created a feeling of not being "good enough".  EMDR is an evidence based treatment approved by many insurance companies.

How EMDR Therapy Works

No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. When a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time”, and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative impact on daily living. When you are fearful or upset, your amygdala becomes active.  This initiates your fight or flight reaction. When this happens the frontal lobe of your brain, or the area for executive functioning, is impaired. The bilateral stimulation in EMDR appears to calm the amygdala so your your whole brain can function, and what you know cognitively becomes congruent with your feelings. Following successful EMDR sessions, a person no longer relives the intense images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting.


Controlled studies investigating the effectiveness of EMDR have consistently found that EMDR decreases/eliminates the symptoms of (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the majority of clients.The American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD.  EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health and many other international health and agencies.

An Actual EMDR Session

During EMDR the client is asked to identify a specific problem, calling to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of a few sessions, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance. 

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