EMDR Therapy

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What Is Eye Movement Desensitization And Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) helps clients process traumatic memories, resolve negative self-beliefs, and increase resilience using bilateral stimulation, or side-to-side eye movements. Though, at first glance, EMDR may seem strange or unorthodox, it is one of the most effective and researched trauma treatments that exist. And it’s been shown to significantly reduce symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, low self-esteem, and other trauma-related issues. 

The Background Of EMDR

EMDR was first developed in 1987 by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro, who discovered a correlation between eye movement and feelings of distress. Shapiro noticed that certain eye gazes triggered stress responses, while other gazes seemed to calm the nervous system. From this, an essential aspect of EMDR therapy was born, known as bilateral stimulation.

Originally deemed “controversial and experimental,” many skeptics did not initially understand the relationship between bilateral stimulation and the brain’s neural pathways. However, the more researchers and clinicians studied EMDR, the more they understood how trauma was stored in the nervous system, eventually recognizing that this approach had amazing potential to essentially “move” stored trauma out of the body. 

Today, EMDR is considered one of the most efficient and effective trauma therapies, and it’s recommended worldwide by a number of prestigious mental health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

How Does EMDR Work?

One of our society’s biggest misconceptions about trauma is that it always results from sudden, shocking, or life-threatening experiences. And while PTSD certainly can occur in critical situations like an assault or accident, there are many common experiences—often occurring in childhood—that leave lasting negative impressions on our lives. The emotional, relational, and even physical aspects of these traumatic memories can affect us well into adulthood. However, we may not often recognize the relationship between what happened in the past and what we are feeling today

The EMDR Treatment Process

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing utilizes bilateral stimulation to activate both sides of the brain (engaging both the logical and creative components of the psyche) as a negative memory, feeling, or sensation is processed. 

A therapist using EMDR will have a client focus on their “target” memory and ask a series of questions about the kinds of beliefs that developed from this experience. Then, through a pattern of eye movements, the EMDR process creates new neural pathways and associations, allowing negative stuck memories to find movement and be reprocessed in a healthier, more adaptive way. The result is often a new understanding, a more nuanced perspective, and more positive (or, at the very least, neutral) thoughts as they pertain to the target memory. 

The VA created a helpful video called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD” that explains the treatment process in a straightforward way if you are looking for more information about how EMDR works. [1]

How EMDR Differs From Other Forms Of Therapy

There are many aspects of traditional talk therapy that can be incredibly beneficial for clients. However, treatments like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other conventional methods don’t engage directly with the brain in the same way that EMDR does. EMDR is particularly efficient in getting to the core of the issue while also being gentle in its non-traumatizing, nonverbal approach. In fact, traumatic memories can be processed in as little as one to three sessions using EMDR, whereas conventional talk therapies might take much longer.

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EMDR Is One Of Many Trauma-Informed Approaches We Use

At MLB Therapy, our clinicians are trained in a wide range of trauma-informed modalities. We use aspects of Motivational Interviewing and behavioral therapies—including CBT, Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT), and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)—alongside EMDR, tailoring treatment to each client’s needs and goals. We are careful to move at each client’s pace and invested in helping them feel supported on the therapeutic journey.

And while many people are unfamiliar with or even intimidated by the prospect of EMDR, we have witnessed many clients make great strides using this therapy. EMDR encourages more flexibility and balance in perspective, offering each client an opportunity to identify triggers and overcome unhealthy stress responses. Not only does this approach heal one’s relationship with the past—it sets the stage for a brighter future and a strong sense of moving forward in life.

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Heal Trauma Quickly

If you feel bogged down by anxiety, low self-esteem, or relational issues, it’s possible your symptoms are rooted in a negative past experience. EMDR is an approach we use at MLB Therapy to help clients navigate and reprocess trauma, opening the door to more balance, self-compassion, and harmony within themselves. To find out more about how EMDR works, watch the video below or schedule a session with one of our therapists today.

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