What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a therapy approach that was developed to help people who have experienced trauma, however it is effective and becoming popular in working with a wide array of concerns beyond just trauma. EMDR was eveloped by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, and has grown in popularity and acceptance within the mental health community since that time.

EMDR treatment typically follows the following structure:

  1. Assessment and Preparation: The therapist begins by assessing the client’s history and current symptoms to determine if EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist also prepares the client by explaining the process and ensuring they have coping skills to manage distress.
  2. Desensitization Phase: During this phase, the client reviews memories or experiences while simultaneously focusing on a bilateral stimulation (BLS). This BLS could be side-to-side eye movements, auditory tones, tapping sensations, or other methods. The BLS is believed to help the brain process traumatic memories more effectively.
  3. Reprocessing Phase: As the client focuses on their memory or experience and the bilateral stimulation, their brain begins to reprocess the memory. This often involves making new connections between memories and more adaptive information or beliefs. The goal is to reduce the emotional charge associated with the memory and promote healing.
  4. Installation Phase: In this phase, the therapist helps the client strengthen positive beliefs and self-esteem. The client may be asked to focus on more adaptive thoughts or images while receiving bilateral stimulation.
  5. Body Scan: After the processing is complete, the therapist will often guide the client through a body scan to ensure that there are no lingering physical sensations or tension related to the memory or experience being processed.
  6. Closure: The therapist helps the client return to a state of equilibrium and emotional stability before ending the session. This may involve relaxation techniques or grounding exercises.
  7. Re-evaluation: In subsequent sessions, the therapist and client may revisit the processed memories/experiences to assess progress and address any remaining distress or related concerns.

EMDR is based on the idea that experiences can overwhelm the brain’s natural processing mechanisms, leading to the development of symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and anxiety. By facilitating the reprocessing of these memories in a controlled therapeutic environment, EMDR aims to alleviate symptoms and promote emotional healing.

It’s important to note that while EMDR has been shown to be effective for many individuals, it may not be suitable for everyone.  Our trained clinicians will work with you to determine if EMDR is an appropriate approach to your unique circumstances.

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