EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

EMDR is a therapy method that enables people to recover from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from demanding or traumatic life experiences.

Humans can have experiences that are too much, too difficult, or too overwhelming for a person to handle. Those types of events are ‘traumatic’. Traumatic experiences are stored in the brain and memories differently than other memories. They are ‘categorized’ as related to ‘life and death’ (danger) and therefore are not ‘processed’ by the brain as other information is processed and later used by the human brain.

These memories and their emotional and physical effect can be activated (triggered) whenever the brain assumes the person is in danger, leading to strong reactions in the here and now to situations that might not warrant such an intense fear or survival reaction. A response that was necessary for the past to survive but might be causing problems when that reaction surfaces in the here and now, when the person is not in danger.
The human body and brain can also change in how it operates due to traumatic experiences, resulting in many difficulties in life in dealing with emotions, relationships, and triggers, leading to chronic health conditions and affecting sleep, mood, and overall physical and mental health.

EMDR as a Trauma Based Therapy

There are many evidence-based trauma therapies and many are used together or integrated. EMDR is one of the very well-researched and successful trauma therapy approaches. Trauma processing through EMDR aims to relieve the emotional disturbance, strong physical symptoms, and beliefs about the person in relation to the trauma.

In EMDR, the client is helped to remember the events using an image, a belief, and the emotion related to that event and encouraged to feel where that emotion is expressed in the body. During this treatment, the client is rooted in the here and now, where it is safe. The client’s brain is stimulated when the event is activated, alternating the left and right hemispheres. When the left and right hemispheres are encouraged to do their tasks, memories can be processed better (bi-lateral stimulation). The simulation involves eye movements, tapping, listening to sounds, or holding vibrating paddles.

Clients generally gain insight into their situations, the emotional distress resolves, and they start to change their behaviors. The length of treatment depends upon the number of traumas and the age of PTSD onset.

Most Arise therapists are EMDR trained and can explain this method further in therapy.