EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma or other distressing life experiences. EMDR therapy has been extensively researched and has demonstrated effectiveness for trauma.
About EMDR Therapy
Our brains have natural ways to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (which provides the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). Often, these mechanisms allow us to recover and process traumatic events in a way that does not leave us anxious, stressful, or reactivated in the future.
However, many times traumatic experiences may be encoded into inappropriate or overly-powerful stress responses, linking to our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. In these cases, upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in a painful moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, stimulates and links the relevant brain mechanisms, and allows normal healing to resume. Our experiences are still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze responses from the original events are resolved. Even events that are not clearly remembered, are pre-verbal, or are thought to be "just something that happened" can affect us in our present lives, and be broken free using EMDR.
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue, or homework between sessions. EMDR, rather than "covering up" the symptoms or attempting to address the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process around the core issue itself and resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. Part of the therapy includes alternating eye movements, sounds, or taps.
For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies. While EMDR is not the right therapeutic modality for every person at every stage of therapy, it can often resolve issues - or free up a client who is otherwise stuck or not progressing.