The acronym EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, a type of therapy designed to help alleviate distress associated with traumatic situations (EMDR Institute, 2020). While EMDR has been around for over 30 years, with more research being conducted on the lasting impact of trauma and how distressing situations an have implication both to a persons mental and physical health, EMDR is becoming more widely used and accepted as viable therapy intervention to help diminish and mitigate symptoms.
While traditional talk therapy can be an effective means of helping clients process psychological trauma, sometimes it may not be enough to heal the deep wounds experienced in childhood or other points in life.
How it works?
Your EMDR trained therapist will work with you to identify specific traumatic experiences that are impacting you, sometimes noticed in the way you are triggered by various thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, images, sounds, times of year, and other sensory perceptions. Following approved protocols, you and your therapist will work through a personal history including traumatic events which will become potential targets for processing. Through the use of bilateral stimulation, eye movements similar to what happens during REM sleep, your brain can begin to heal from the trauma and integrate the event(s) so that they no longer create the emotional reactions you experienced prior to therapy.
Imagine you get a cut and and your body attempts to heal the would. Should there be dirt or another foreign object in the cut, or if you were to continue to injure the wound, it wouldn’t fully heal. Despite how much your body does what it is designed to do, attempting to mend the wound, it can’t do so until the object is removed. If you picture a traumatic incident in the same way, no matter how much you talk about what took place, your brain sometimes cannot fully heal until the emotional blockage is removed. In fact, talking about the trauma over and over is somewhat similar to re-injuring the wound as you are forced to relive the event, not allowing your brain to process it in the necessary way. Using EMDR, the distressing situation can be processed in a healthy and adaptive manner so that you no longer feel the event as severely.
What else can EMDR be used for?
In addition to traumatic events, EMDR research has shown that this therapeutic process can be effective in treating sleep issues, addiction or negative habits, anxiety, certain phobias, and even help for clarity when faced with difficult decisions.
If you would like to learn more about EMDR therapy, you can check out the links below or contact Project Ember Initiative for more information.