EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that helps people heal from
the emotional and physical distress following scary or harmful events. This therapy helps adults and
adolescents transform fear, depression, anxiety, and anger to a sense of empowerment and peace.
Often trauma survivors report a sense they are constantly or intermittently reliving the scary event over and over as though it is happening in the present moment. This is congruent with research on how our brains react under stress. When a trauma occurs and we are unable to engage in an action to keep us safe our brains do not integrate the event in the same way we do with other memories. It is as though the trauma is continuing to occur even after the event is long over. EMDR is designed to help your body and mind understand the event happened in the past and you are now safe.
When we do EMDR together, I guide you through 8 phases of treatment starting with learning about you, identifying any negative/positive beliefs about yourself, addressing your memory of the traumatic event, and identifying uncomfortable body sensations related to the trauma to target during the intervention phase. We then work on the trauma processing/intervention phases where we use EMDR techniques (following my finger with your eyes from left to right, holding vibrating paddles, or tapping on two sides of the body) to help stimulate your brain in such a way that the trauma can become integrated in a healthy way within your memory. The theory is that once integrated your emotional distress, uncomfortable body sensations, and negative views of the self related to the trauma diminish or are extinguished. Our last phase is exploring progress made in treatment and identifying strategies to navigate any anticipated future stressors. At the end of this process many adults & adolescents report feeling at peace with themselves for the first time since the traumatic event.
Imagine a wound with a shard of glass inside. The wound will not heal and will continue to cause suffering until the glass is removed. EMDR is the method to help your mind remove the “glass” that is getting in the way of healing. When a trauma occurs our brain does not respond and integrate the event in the same way it does for nondistressing events. You may experience the event over and over as if it is literally still happening (feeling anxious, jumpy, panicky, distrusting others, always paying attention to possible threats in your environment, etc.). When we practice EMDR, we are bilaterally stimulating your brain while you are processing the harmful event in session. It is believed to work in the same way that Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep works in helping us integrate memories. Once the memory is integrated we become desensitized to triggers and don’t experience the same level of distress when remembering the trauma. It is like the glass being removed so the real healing can begin.