What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR is a treatment that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that result from disturbing life experiences. During an EMDR session, the client tends to emotionally disturbing material in brief doses while simultaneously focusing on external stimuli. The therapist will generally use eye moment as the external stimuli but might also use other stimulants like hand-tapping or audio stimulation.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1989 when she noted that tracking eye movements reduced distress levels. Over time, she discovered that it was not the eye movements themselves that were important, but the effect that the moment had on the brain.
This effect is known as bilateral stimulation, where each lobe of the brain is stimulated in a rhythmic pattern. The same result can be achieved with hand tapping or auditory cues in headphones. The therapy is used to treat Post Traumatic Stress disorder by helping the client process a traumatic event. The current theory is that the eye moments imitate what occurs during REM sleep – a time in which we process information and consolidate memory.
EMDR Therapy Process
An EMDR therapy session involves entering a calm space with a therapist. The therapist will ask you to focus on one memory you have previously agreed to process. Then the therapist will have you track their hand with your eyes while the rest of your body stays still. There isn’t much talking, and all the processing happens inside your head. Many of our clients have had transformative experiences during EMDR sessions. They report:
- Less anxiety related to the traumatic event
- Reduced stress response when thinking about the traumatic event
- A new prospected on the traumatic event
- Positive feelings associated with having processed the traumatic event
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