What is it? And how can it help me?
Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress, including anxiety and depression. EMDR typically produces results more rapidly than previous forms of therapy.
EMDR therapy was established about 30 years ago and has been continually evolving since. The main goal of the therapy is to alleviate the stress and anxiety caused by trauma by helping you process your experiences. Traumatic experiences can have a profound effect on the brain. If your mind hasn’t fully processed your trauma, you may develop long-lasting and unhealed wounds from the event. The sights, sounds, smells, or other feelings that remind you of the event can trigger your stress response, causing you to feel like you’re back in that moment.
The most common use of EMDR therapy is to treat trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, EMDR therapy appears to be effective for addressing other concerns as well, including anxiety and depression. In many cases, we experience emotional or psychological distress because our brains have formed unhealthy thinking patterns. Once our neurons are wired to respond in a certain way to different experiences, it can be difficult to break these habits on our own. EMDR therapy retrains your brain and breaks the negative thought patterns that contribute to your distress.
Clients can use a computer, tablet, or phone for EMDR sessions. Trauma can be processed without having to talk through all of the details.
Benefits of EMDR Therapy
1. Effective for Trauma Recovery
Moving on after a traumatic event is one of the most difficult tasks imaginable, but EMDR therapy can make it possible. Once a trauma has been ingrained in your mind, it can be tough to avoid triggers that make you feel like you’re reliving the experience. EMDR allows your brain to reorganize the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are connected to your trauma so that you no longer feel like you’re ruled by the event.
You can’t erase trauma from your life, and you may always carry some of the weight of your trauma. However, EMDR can dramatically reduce the amount of control that your trauma has on your life, and it can help you navigate the present day without constantly reliving the past.
2. Addresses Anxiety and Circular Thinking
EMDR therapy can be effective for treating generalized anxiety, phobias, and other anxiety disorders because it helps you let go of your circular thinking patterns. When an anxious thought spiral is ingrained in your mind, it can feel inescapable. With the help of EMDR, though, you can learn to address your fears and worries without becoming lost in your anxiety.
3. Improves Perspective on Self
Just like it’s easy to be consumed by anxious thought patterns, it can be easy to get stuck in a loop of self-doubt and self-criticism. This is one of the most common hallmarks of depression, but negative self-image can impact anyone. Maybe past failures or criticisms have gotten trapped in your head, or maybe your negative inner voice simply tells you that you’re not good enough.
EMDR can help you break these thinking habits and replace them with new, positive beliefs about yourself and your world. Our negative perspectives on ourselves usually stem from our painful past experiences, but we can rethink our interpretations of those moments with EMDR. By reprocessing the beliefs or experiences that have affected your self-image, you’ll overcome your automatic negative thoughts and learn to relate more positively to yourself.
4. Doesn’t Require Much Talking
Before you and your therapist begin the eye movement and desensitization part of your therapy session, you will talk about your background, your goals for the treatment, and your expectations. The actual treatment requires little talking, though. Your therapist will encourage you to focus on your negative thoughts or memories while they guide you through the eye movements, so your experience will be mostly internal. After the session, you can discuss your experience with your therapist.
EMDR therapy is an accessible form of mental healthcare for people who struggle to articulate their feelings in words. If it’s hard for you to talk about your trauma, your depressive thoughts, or other negative experiences, EMDR may be an easier and less stressful form of therapy. You’re not shying away from your emotions or your trauma, but you don’t have to find the words to express how you feel.
5. Fast Results
No therapy shows results overnight, but EMDR tends to be a short-term treatment. Most people attend eight to 12 weekly sessions, and the results are typically permanent. This is especially valuable for people who have limited time or funding for therapy as it makes mental healthcare more accessible for them. It’s easier to commit to a few months of treatment than it is to commit to years of sessions, so many people are able to receive EMDR therapy when they would never have been able to attend traditional talk therapy.