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  • EMDR



    Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on healing individuals from emotional distress or symptoms that have resulted after a disturbing life experience. EMDR, as with most therapy approaches, focuses on the individual’s present concerns. EMDR works to heal the brain from emotional trauma much like the body heals from physical injury. This approach believes past emotionally-charged experiences are overly influencing your present emotions, sensations, and thoughts about yourself. As an example: “Do you ever feel worthless although you know you are a worthwhile person?” EMDR processing helps you break through the emotional blocks that are keeping you from living an adaptive, emotionally healthy life. With the aid of EMDR therapy, an individual can remove the mental blocks preventing them from getting better, resulting in a more beneficial and therapeutic experience.

    EMDR uses rapid sets of eye movements to help you update disturbing experiences, much like what occurs when we sleep. During sleep, we alternate between regular sleep and REM (rapid eye movement). This sleep pattern helps you process things that are troubling you. EMDR replicates this sleep pattern by alternating between sets of eye movements and brief reports about what you are noticing. This alternating process helps you update your memories to a healthier present perspective.

    What is different about EMDR?

    • EMDR focuses on the brain’s ability to constantly learn, taking past experiences, and updating them with present information.
    • Adaptive learning is constantly updating memory network systems.
    • Past emotionally-charged experiences often interfere with your updating process.
    • EMDR breaks through that interference and helps let go of the past and update your experiences to a healthier present perspective.
    • EMDR uses a set of procedures to organize your negative and positive feelings, emotions, and thoughts, and then uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements or alternating tapping, as the way to help you effectively work through those disturbing memories.

    What does an EMDR session look like?

    • Overall Treatment Planning

      • You have come to treatment expressing concerns.
      • Your therapist will help you understand the dynamics of the presenting concerns and how to adaptively manage them.
      • An overall treatment plan will be developed that will accomplish your goals.
      • Within that treatment plan, EMDR, along with other therapy approaches, will be used to accomplish your treatment goals.
    • The EMDR session

      • You will be asked a set of questions to access and activate the negative experience and the desired adaptive resolution.
      • Sets of rapid eye movement (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) will be applied.
      • You will be encouraged to just “free associate” and allow the brain to work through the experience.
      • Sets of eye movements will be alternated with brief reports about what you are experiencing.
      • EMDR processing will continue until the past experience has been updated to an adaptive present perspective.
      • With long standing issues, this process may take multiple sessions.
    • Using what you’ve learned

      • Once the disturbing experiences have been updated, you and your therapist will work together to integrate these new insights and perspectives into your daily life.

    What does the entire process look like?

    EMDR is broken up into 8 phases and does not always look like re-processing and eye movements. Here’s an idea of what to expect along your EMDR journey:

    • Phase 1:  You will first meet with your therapist for an initial intake so he/she can fully understand your story and how EMDR can help you along your healing journey. This may take several sessions as you and your therapist will work together to develop a treatment plan and goals that are most fitting for you.
    • Phase 2: Before your therapist begins the re-processing phase, he/she is going to help you develop the tools and resources you need to feel safe and comfortable to do so. This phase of EMDR can sometimes be the longest if you’re coming into therapy with an empty toolbox. You may think “this doesn’t feel like EMDR”, however, this is the most important part of the EMDR process.
    • Phases 3-7: Once your tools are in order and you and your therapist have identified the specific memories to reprocess, you will begin the reprocessing phase. Notice that the reprocessing process includes 5 of 8 EMDR phases – you will spend the bulk of your time throughout EMDR in the reprocessing phase.
    • Phase 8: Your therapist will check in to see if past triggers or memories are still activating for you. If so, your therapist may continue some reprocessing on these memories or identify future scenarios where you may encounter triggers so you can process through those.

    “It takes enormous trust and courage to allow yourself to remember.” ― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma


    Is it necessary to tell my therapist all the details about my problems in order for them to be processed?

    No, it is not necessary to talk about all the details of your experiences for them to be processed.

    Will I get emotional?

    Yes, you may. Emotions and sensations may come up during processing; although, you will be prepared and your therapist will help you safely manage them. Once they are processed, they rarely come back!

    Is EMDR like hypnosis?

    No. During EMDR processing, you are present and fully in control.

    Is EMDR a brief treatment?

    EMDR, as with all treatment approaches, will help you accomplish your treatment goals. The length of time that it takes is dependent upon the complexity of your problems. Frequently, EMDR is only one of several treatment approaches that will be used to help you reach your treatment goals.

    Contact us to start mapping your road to wellness today!

    See our EMDR posts on The MBC Connection below: