EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)

What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a powerful therapeutic approach designed to help the mind heal from trauma, much like how the body heals itself naturally. Developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987, EMDR leverages the brain’s natural coping mechanisms, particularly during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since its inception, EMDR has proven effective in addressing a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, and phobias.

Understanding Trauma

Trauma can affect us in ways we might not fully recognize. Trauma encompasses more than just obvious events like abuse; it can also include experiences that may not seem traumatic to others but have a significant impact on an individual. Whether it’s a car accident, childhood neglect, or hurtful words, if an event feels traumatic and is stored as such in the brain, it can influence everything from our mood to our coping mechanisms, including substance use.

How Trauma Affects the Brain

Under normal circumstances, our brains and bodies process new information and experiences seamlessly. However, when we encounter overwhelming events or repeated distress, our natural coping mechanisms can become overloaded. This can leave disturbing experiences “unprocessed” and stored in the brain’s limbic system in a raw, emotional form. These unprocessed memories remain isolated and can be triggered by similar events, causing intense feelings like anxiety, panic, anger, or despair. EMDR helps to connect these memories to the brain’s cortex, allowing for natural processing and healing.

What to Expect in an EMDR Session

EMDR sessions tap into your body’s natural healing abilities. After a thorough assessment, you’ll focus on a specific disturbing memory. Eye movements, similar to those during REM sleep, are recreated by following moving lights or using hand pulsators. These movements are brief and followed by discussions about your experiences. As the sessions progress, the distressing memory loses its painful intensity and becomes a neutral recollection. This process can also heal related memories, leading to significant improvements in various aspects of your life.

Benefits of EMDR

EMDR is a versatile therapy that can help with:

  • Resourcing: Strengthening internal resources while soothing limiting parts of yourself. EMDR uses images, emotions, body sensations, and positive thoughts to enhance feelings of calm, safety, and confidence.
  • Resolving Relationship Difficulties: Attachment-focused EMDR addresses unmet developmental needs caused by neglect or abuse, fostering healthier relationships.
  • Trauma Recovery: Effective for both major traumatic events (big “T” trauma) like accidents and assaults, and chronic, ongoing stressors (small “t” trauma) such as interpersonal conflicts and financial stress. The cumulative effect of multiple small “t” traumas can lead to significant emotional distress.

Certified EMDR Therapist

As a certified EMDR therapist, I have completed extensive training and advanced certification requirements, ensuring high standards of practice. My approach integrates ego state work, polyvagal theory, and attachment principles to provide comprehensive care. I am an active member of EMDRIA, the professional association for EMDR practitioners, committed to maintaining the highest standards in clinical use.

To see if EMDR is a good fit for you, please schedule a 20-minute free consultation here.