Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a therapeutic intervention used to treat mental health conditions caused by unhealed trauma.
Developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Francine Shapiro, EMDR therapy has proven to be effective when treating trauma-based conditions like panic disorder, chronic illness, PTSD, phobia, and anxiety trauma.
There are a few risks involved in EMDR therapy. Some clients experience uncomfortable feelings between sessions, a common component of most therapeutic interventions. When you start shaking things up inside, you still determine what will come to the surface.
Desensitization does not involve talking about problems. Instead, patients are gently guided through a series of eye movements while revisiting traumatic events from the past in a safe and supportive environment.
There is ample evidence that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing help patients to heal from trauma-based conditions. The first clinical trial took place in 1989.
At that time, investigators found a strong connection between EMDR and improved mental health. Dozens of studies since then have confirmed the original findings.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t fix everything. It does not affect inherited mental health conditions or physical brain injuries.
Trauma psychologists gently guide clients through a series of EMDR phases. The goal is to replace trauma-induced thoughts, emotions, and behaviors with healthy ones.
Over time, this process allows the highly charged feelings related to the trauma to be healed and released. When you no longer fear a traumatic memory, it loses power over you so the brain can heal itself.
Following an EMDR session, you might have unusually vivid dreams or feel more sensitive to external stimuli. Researchers have found that this type of therapy works faster than other interventions.
The brain interprets events and experiences based on how it perceives them. Because it’s easy to misperceive events, the brain can form false beliefs and behave as if they were true.
When traumatic events occur, the brain can be so overwhelmed that it shuts down and goes offline. If that happens, there will be a discrepancy between what your brain stores in memory and what you actually experienced.
If the trauma is severe, the brain can isolate the memory and hide it from conscious awareness. You can’t heal a trauma if you don’t know it’s there. Until the trauma is healed, your body and brain will continue to react as though you were still experiencing the disturbing event.
Deep hidden memories do not go away on their own, and they can profoundly affect how you feel. Unhealed trauma can generate a slew of symptoms, including panic attacks, involuntary throat closure, migraine headaches, feelings of suffocation, and rapid heartbeat.
EMDR helps you to process traumatic memories using eye movements and guided instruction. After accessing a memory, you can evaluate it and reprocess it. Reprocessing helps to repair the mental injury caused by that memory.
There are eight steps involved in this kind of psychotherapy:
During therapy sessions, the client identifies a troubling memory and describes how it affects their self-perception. If the memory is associated with a negative self-image, the client learns to replace the negative self-perception with a positive one.
After all feelings and sensations associated with trauma have been identified, the client focuses on memory while engaging in eye movement desensitization.
The process continues until the upsetting memory loses its intensity. A positive self-perception is then introduced using bilateral eye movement to replace the negative one.
Anyone with unresolved trauma, especially trauma that’s causing serious symptoms, can benefit from this intervention. The effectiveness of rapid eye movement therapy has been well-documented in the literature.
Traumatic events include major motor vehicle accidents, military combat, rape, physical assault, domestic abuse, medical trauma, abandonment, and natural disasters. These events can generate feelings of profound despair, helplessness, hopelessness, and horror.
When you can clearly remember a traumatic event without reliving it, the event loses its grip on you, and you can release it.
At Mind Body Wellness, we treat various mental health conditions, from substance use disorder and PTSD to co-occurring disorders. Our holistic approach includes all aspects of health and healing.