Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

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What is EMDR?

At Grace Therapy & Wellness, we strongly believe in the research that says our brains are wired for and gravitate towards healing. In the same way that our brains process the information from the day during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, a healing process similar to REM sleep can be replicated to initiate healing. This process is called EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing). EMDR is an evidence-based psychotherapy treatment developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 80’s to treat PTSD and other mental health issues.


Why Trauma Gets Stuck

For the most part, our brains will process new information without our conscious awareness. Our brains have a hard time knowing where to file abnormal (traumatic) experiences, whether it is ongoing relational trauma (e.g. childhood abuse), or a single incident (e.g. natural disaster, motor vehicle accident, etc). When our brains don’t know how to file these experiences, they become stuck in our limbic system, which is responsible for our fight/flight responses. 

Our brain then keeps these experiences cut off from the cerebral cortex, which is the memory filing cabinet of the brain and is responsible for using language to tell the story of our memory. Instead, the limbic system holds these memories in their emotional form in a network of their own. This means that, though we may not recall the memory as it was, we continue to experience uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, panic attacks, and other negative emotions. Because it is “stuck” in the limbic system in its own network, it makes us susceptible to triggers when we experience anything that reminds our body of the original traumatic event. EMDR begins to connect this isolated memory network with other networks to draw on the brain's natural ability to process the traumatic memory.


Picturing an EMDR Session

After you and your therapist have agreed on a treatment plan, the therapist will ask about a traumatic memory that is continuing to cause disturbance for you. Eye movements, or other bilateral stimulation, will be implemented for a few moments as you are asked to focus on the memory. The therapist will check in and see if anything has changed to your thoughts, emotions, or the image of the memory. The therapist will continue the eye movements, or bilateral stimulation, until the memory turns neutral and does not feel disturbing to you any longer. You may also notice that other memories linked to the targeted memory lose their disturbance as well. This reality can create dramatic improvements to multiple parts of life.

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Who/What EMDR is For?

Though EMDR was initially used for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress, it has also been found useful in treating other issues, such as: ​

  • Anxiety

  • Phobias

  • Shame

  • Depression

  • Addiction

  • Eating Disorders

  • Grief

  • Chronic Pain

  • & More

EMDR can accelerate healing in your life by processing traumatic memories more rapidly. You may experience disturbing feelings during your therapy sessions, and you must be prepared and willing to allow these disturbing experiences to happen organically. 


How can therapy help?

Some individuals see positive results after one session. EMDR can be a short-term treatment, adjunctive to your already established psychotherapy, or a longer term plan. EMDR is easily integrated into other forms of psychotherapy, such as, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Internal Family Systems, Psychodynamic, and other approaches. EMDR sessions last anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes. Before beginning EMDR, you will establish a “stop” signal with your therapist. You are in control of this process and will be fully awake and conscious of the process. The therapist will act as a guide, but the healing will be facilitated by you and your smart brain.