What Is EMDR?

What Is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a relatively new and somewhat controversial form of psychotherapy that has proven to be a highly effective treatment for symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and resultant issues.

This therapy involves gently causing patients to revisit the source traumatic event, then, using simple eye movements or other physical elements, psychologically dislodges stuck memories and emotions so that the brain can process them in a healthy way.

It’s believed that the following types of traumatic events cause emotional overloads in the brain, resulting in PTSD:

  • Military combat
  • Auto accidents
  • Violent crime such as mugging, rape or burglary
  • Natural disasters
  • Childhood neglect or abuse

Instead of processing the traumatic experience, feeling the appropriate emotions and then moving on, the brain stores these memories and the resulting panic and anxiety responses in dysfunctional ways. The symptoms then haunt the patient in the form of random panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares and depression. Substance abuse and addiction are a common result of PTSD.

The History and Philosophy of EMDR

Psychologist Francine Shapiro theorized that physiological triggers that touch these damaged areas of the brain might unlock the damaged memories and experiences. She found that verbally taking patients back to their traumatic moment and then introducing bilateral experiences such as eye movement, auditory tones or physical tapping could accomplish this “unlocking.”

Carefully orchestrated sessions gently move patients through the process of remembering their traumas and processing the associated memories productively. This may result in short term flashbacks or moments of overwhelming emotional response, but eventually the patient can overcome the debilitating effects PTSD has had on their physical and emotional health.

EMDR combines therapeutic elements of several proven psychotherapeutic techniques, including the following:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Imaginal exposure
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Somatic therapy

Critics of EMDR suggest that the bilateral stimulation is an unnecessary step, and that it is the general therapeutic approach that allows these patients to dislodge unhealthy memories and emotions from their subconscious mind.

How to Determine if EMDR is Right for You

If you, or someone you love, have been wrestling with symptoms of PTSD with no relief, EMDR may be a helpful tool to try. Only specially trained and licensed psychologists can administer EMDR therapy. Call our toll-free helpline any time, day or night, and let one of our highly trained counselors offer the following confidential and free services:

  • Answer any questions you have about PTSD and EMDR therapy
  • Connect you with licensed EMDR Psychotherapists
  • Confirm insurance coverage of therapy costs
  • Help you identify and address co-occurring disorders such as depression or addiction