Despite the ubiquity of mobile and internet-connected technology, it can often seem more difficult to find in-depth and accurate information on a topic than ever. This fact is especially true when you look for answers to questions regarding the human mind.
When it comes to therapy/psychology, there’s a plethora of misinformation and misconceptions about the subject. One of the most misunderstood aspects of therapy and psychology in recent years is eye-movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. In this article, we’ll explain EMDR Therapy, how it works, and how it can help you in your therapy. So, keep reading to learn all about EMDR.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is an approach to psychotherapy originally intended to alleviate distress associated with the effects of traumatic events. As EMDR has grown in popularity, so too has its utility. Today, therapists use EMDR to treat a wide swath of psychological conditions, including:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Panic Attacks
- Relationship Problems
- Lack of Motivation
- Fear of Being Alone
- Trust Issues
- Positive Reinforcement
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR Therapy, developed in 1987, is based on the adaptive information processing (AIP) model. In this model, the source of many mental health issues are unprocessed or insufficiently dealt with memories stored in the brain and body. These stored memories contain the emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical sensations experienced at the time of the event.
Many therapeutic treatments focus on directly modifying emotions, thoughts, and responses resulting from trauma. EMDR, on the other hand, works directly with your memory and is intended to change the way the memory is stored. In EMDR Therapy, you stimulate the brain in ways that help it process unresolved or unhealed memories.
Addressing these memories helps lead to decreased emotional charge (a.k.a. Desensitization, or the “D” in EMDR). Additionally, it assists in linkage to positive memory networks (a.k.a. Reprocessing, or the “R” of EMDR). According to, Psychology Today, EMDR has similar effects of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. During REM sleep, your mind and body better able to digest difficult information and emotions.
Like REM sleep, your brain during EMDR will go wherever necessary to heal. Instead of sleep, though, EMDR therapy uses a light bar and hand buzzers to stimulate your brain.
What to Expect From EMDR?
First, EMDR sessions may take longer than standard therapy appointments. EMDR sessions can last anywhere between 50 and 180 minutes. Typically, the therapist will ask the patient to identify and recall a specific memory. Your therapist will then ask you to remember details of the memory, like sights, sounds, sensations, and smells. Specific details that bring the memory to life.
The therapist then guides the patient through several sets of dual stimulation. As mentioned earlier, this stimulation comes from a light bar, alternating audio stimulation, and/or oscillating vibrations via hand buzzers. By focusing on a traumatic memory while experiencing the dual stimulation, patients have reported a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the memory.
Does EMDR Work?
While some have questioned the effectiveness of EMDR Therapy, numerous case studies report positive outcomes. Similarly, per Psychology Today, there are also more than 20+ controlled studies exploring the effects of EMDR. These studies demonstrate EMDR Therapy is effective in helping eliminate or decrease symptoms of many mental health issues.
Both the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) have recognized EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD and other issues. Additionally, the US Department of Veteran Affairs, Department of Defense, UK Department of Health, and the Israeli National Council for Mental Health have acknowledged the effectiveness of EMDR Therapy.
Is EMDR Therapy Right for You?
Ultimately the decision to utilize any form of therapy is up to the individual. While there are many success stories from EMDR Therapy, it isn’t the best treatment for everyone. If you have a therapist, ask them if EMDR might help you. If you’re interested in EMDR Therapy but don’t have a therapist, talk to a licensed Compassionate Minds therapist today.
From individual therapy to substance-abuse therapy to EMDR, our team of experts can help you work through a range of issues. At Compassionate Minds Therapy, we work with each of our patients to create an individualized treatment plan that works best for you, at a time that’s most convenient for you.