What is EMDR Therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy)?

EMDR therapy is an innovative type of psychotherapy that helps people recover from trauma and a number of other issues, including chronic pain. EMDR has been around for over 30 years, and it has helped millions of people recover from trauma and a number of other issues. EMDR helps you change your relationship to difficult memories and ways of thinking.

EMDR does this by using bilateral (two-sided) stimulation of the brain to allow traumatic memories and stimuli to become less upsetting. The stimulation is not direct, that is, we don’t actually put anything on your brain. Rather, we use various techniques to activate each side of the brain. As this happens, we are then able to connect the traumatic memory to more helpful memories.

For instance, if someone has experienced a traumatic event like a car accident, even though they know that 99.999% of the time they get in a car nothing bad happens, they may have trouble believing that because of the trauma. As they process the memory of this event with EMDR, they are able to connect the memory to the fact that every other time they have gotten in a car, nothing bad has happened, which makes the trauma symptoms diminish.

Do I have to move my eyes in EMDR?

No, although with “eye movement” as part of the name of the therapy, I can see how you would think that. EMDR works through bilateral stimulation of any kind. It started out using only eye movements to accomplish this, but there are many options now. Most often we use tactile stimulation, which involves a device that vibrates in the palms of your hands and alternates between the left hand and right hand.These vibrations don’t hurt, and they can be adjusted to a level of intensity that is exactly right for you. Another option that is proven to be especially effective for dealing with pain is audio stimulation. You would need to bring a set of headphones, and one of the devices I use will play alternating sounds in each ear. It may take some experimenting to figure out which type or types of stimulation is best for you.

Why Does EMDR work for Trauma and pain?

Quite simply, we don’t really know. Some people think that it works similar to the way in which REM sleep, or the dream stage of sleep, helps us process things that have happened to us while we wake. There are similarities in the eye movements for both.

Others think that the bilateral stimulation is a way to regulate the nervous system and allow you to think about the difficult memories or pain in state in which you are calm and relaxed, which builds different physiological associations with the memory.

Regardless of why it works, we know that it does through many studies and the fact that many people have been helped by it. This is actually quite common in medicine, with various medications and treatments working without us having figured out the exact reason why they work.

EMDR for Trauma and PTSD

EMDR is a very effective treatment for PTSD and other trauma-related issues. In addition to addressing PTSD where someone has suffered an extremely threatening or violating event, I find that EMDR is especially helpful in addressing painful memories that hurt emotionally, but that are not causing full blown PTSD symptoms. For instance, EMDR can be useful for issues related to bullying, workplace intimidation, emotional abuse, relationships with narcissistic partners, and many other issues.

EMDR is especially helpful in working with trauma that you do not have a clear memory of. Often people do not have clear memories of traumatic events they have suffered because the brain protects us from these memories or it happened when they were quite young. In EMDR, we can access this material in ways that other therapies cannot. Once accessed, we can then process the material so healing can occur.

EMDR for Chronic Pain

EMDR is also very helpful for chronic pain. This makes sense because pain often comes from trauma and the results of pain can be traumatic. It is also beneficial to learn to confront the sensation involved in pain with the added benefit of the calming state that bilateral stimulation often produces. In conjunction with other types of psychotherapy, EMDR can be an important component of therapy for chronic pain.

WHo is EMDR for?

In order to participate in EMDR, you need to be able to bring yourself back into a calm state of mind after discussing difficult material. You do not have to have this skill when you start therapy. Many people who have experienced trauma do not. We will work together to help you gain these skills since they are important not only for participating in this kind of therapy, but in life itself.

If EMDR sounds intriguing, click the “Request Appointment” button below so we can get started working together to help you feel better.