Have you ever felt unable to move on from a difficult life experience? When difficult or traumatic things happen to us, we often feel stuck. Sometimes we even feel like we are reliving those moments over and over again. EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of psychotherapy that allows people to heal from symptoms of emotional distress caused by a disturbing life event or series of life events. 

 

Signs EMDR might be helpful for you:

  • Having unwanted and sometimes seemingly untriggered or intrusive memories

  • Feeling unable to distract from unwanted memories

  • Feeling like you are reliving a disturbing or traumatic event (flashbacks)

  • Experiencing upsetting dreams or nightmares 

  • Having emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of a disturbing event

  • Difficulty sleeping

  • Anxiety that doesn’t seem to have a clear reason or cause

  • Panic attacks

  • Irritability/feeling annoyed by things that you feel shouldn’t bother you so much

  • Feeling emotionally numbed or detached from others


 

Because EMDR focuses on disturbing life events and distressing memories, EMDR is most commonly used to treat trauma and symptoms of PTSD. Research has reliably shown that EMDR can help resolve symptoms of PTSD faster and more effectively than traditional talk therapy. Although EMDR has become a gold standard treatment for trauma, it can be helpful for other concerns such as (but not limited to) anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and problems with substance use. 

 

How does it work? EMDR involves identifying a “target memory” that seems to be causing emotional pain or distress, and describing that memory to your therapist. Your therapist will then use rapid eye movement (either by moving their fingers side to side in front of their client’s face or through the use of a light bar, which is a device that shows a moving set of dots that you follow with your eyes) as you think about the memory. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. These memories are never erased or altered, they just have less of a powerful emotional grip on clients.

 

Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain during EMDR are much less related to their therapist’s interpretation of your experience and more related to their own emotional processes.This is often a very empowering experience for clients, who often feel powerless in the memories they are working on in therapy. EMDR can be a life changing experience. It is not a one size fits all treatment approach- it can be very effective for a one incident trauma such as a car accident, but it can also be very effective for repeated childhood abuse, sexual abuse and trauma, combat trauma for active duty military members and veterans, first responders,front line healthcare workers, etc. Please consider EMDR therapy if you’ve ever felt “stuck” in the past or unable to move on into the present and future.

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