How EMDR therapy can help with processing trauma

Dec 04, 2023

Understanding EMDR Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an interactive psychotherapy technique used to relieve psychological stress. It is an effective treatment for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma processing.

EMDR therapy session

What is EMDR and How Does It Work?

EMDR therapy is based on the premise that past emotionally-charged experiences can cause blockages in an individual's information processing system. These blockages can lead to intense suffering. During EMDR therapy sessions, the therapist guides the patient in focusing on traumatic memories while simultaneously receiving bilateral sensory input, such as side-to-side eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory tones. This process is believed to facilitate the resumption of normal information processing and integration. This can result in a reduction of traumatic stress, as well as a change in how the traumatic memories are held in the brain.

The EMDR Therapy Process

EMDR therapy typically unfolds over eight phases, starting with history taking and ending with evaluating treatment results. Key to the process is the identification of target memories for reprocessing, as well as the installation of positive beliefs. The heart of EMDR—the reprocessing phases—includes sets of bilateral stimulation while the patient focuses on aspects of the memory, followed by brief pauses to discuss any new insights or feelings that arise.

Therapy session

Benefits of EMDR for Trauma

One of the most significant benefits of EMDR therapy is its ability to help patients process traumatic memories without the need for detailed descriptions or extended exposure to the traumatic event. This can make it a particularly appealing option for individuals who may be reluctant to discuss their traumas explicitly. EMDR therapy has been shown to reduce the emotional distress stemming from traumatic memories and is recognized as an effective treatment for PTSD by organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the World Health Organization.

EMDR Beyond Trauma

While EMDR was initially developed to address PTSD, therapists have also successfully used it to treat other conditions such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. By processing distressing memories and the associated beliefs, clients can experience improvements in many areas of their lives. EMDR therapy helps to unlock negative beliefs and allows for the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution.

Mental health therapy

Is EMDR Right for Everyone?

EMDR therapy is not a one-size-f