Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an eight-phase evidence-based therapy designed to help clients develop internal resources to cope with the aftermath of traumatic or adverse experiences, reduce the emotional charge around memories of these experiences, and change the way these memories are stored in the brain, resulting in healthier beliefs about themselves, others, and being in the world.
When thinking about EMDR, most people think about bilateral stimulation, that is, the use of eye movements, sounds, tapping, etc. to activate “dual attention” to both internal experiences and external stimuli. Bilateral stimulation also mimics what happens during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which facilitates processing of information. In using bilateral stimulation, clients are able to access a memory network associated with a certain negative cognition and actually change the way the memories in that network are stored, such that desensitization occurs and new, healthier associations between memories and cognitions are developed.
In fact, EMDR is a lot more than just bilateral stimulation (that is just one of the eight phases). EMDR encompasses an entire therapeutic journey – from assessment and treatment planning; to the development of coping skills; to accessing and desensitizing images, thoughts, emotions, and body sensations; to integrating new information; and, finally, to planning for the future. Parts of EMDR share theoretical foundations with other modalities such as mindfulness and strengths-based therapies. What many clients appreciate about EMDR is that it does not require one to share details about their experiences unless they want to. EMDR posits that clients’ minds alone are capable of healing from psychological trauma, and therapists should refrain from getting in the mind’s way by being too directive. EMDR can be helpful for a wide variety of mental health concerns – from depression, to anxiety, to posttraumatic stress, and even to the treatment of substance use disorders, just to name a few. If you would like to determine if EMDR therapy may be the right fit for you, please contact me to schedule a free 15-minute phone consultation.