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What is EMDR Therapy Like? Pt. 2

Welcome back! So glad you are here to join us for part 2 of what EMDR is and how it works.


How does EMDR work?

Magnifying glass held up to sunset
Some therapists consider EMDR to be a very holistic therapy, where...a client’s brain actually works to heal itself!

Honestly, we don’t know exactly how EMDR works, and research continues, even today, in order to be able to better understand how the brain works during EMDR therapy.


Some equate EMDR to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. EMDR therapy also uses bilateral stimulation by using hand motions (the original way to administer the therapy) and more recently it incorporates lights, taps or tones.


When is EMDR most helpful?


When an individual is very upset and/or traumatized, their brain cannot always process information as it typically does.


The brain can become frozen in time so that remembering the trauma can feel like the original experience. Not surprisingly, this can negatively affect the way the person currently sees the world and how they relate to others.


EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes the traumatic memory/information.


After EMDR therapy, normal information processing is resumed so that a person no longer relives the images, sounds and feelings when the traumatic/distressing event is brought to mind. The person still remembers what happened, but it is far less distressing.


Some therapists consider EMDR to be a very holistic therapy, where by using a specific therapist-led protocol, a client’s brain actually works to heal itself! This can be very empowering to the client. EMDR is unique and different for everyone because the healing process is guided from within the individual.


What is EMDR therapy like?


The therapist and client work together to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment. The client brings to mind the disturbing issue/event and identifies what was seen, felt, heard, and thought along with what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event.


The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eye or other dual attention stimulation of the brain (bilateral stimulation), using hand movement, lights, taps or tones.


At the same time, the client focuses on the disturbing issue/event and notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Sets of the bilateral stimulation continue until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self.


A client may experience intense emotions during the EMDR session, but usually by the end of the session most people report a reduction in their level of distress or disturbance. The upsetting emotion or memory often seems to fade into the past and lose its power.


A typical EMDR session can last anywhere from 50-90 minutes. The type of issues, life circumstances, and extent of trauma determines how many sessions will be necessary. EMDR can be used along with standard “talk” therapy or as a treatment by itself.


Is EMDR therapy right for me?


Your therapist will discuss your specific therapy needs and working together, you will decide if EMDR is a good match for your situation. While it’s not helpful for all individuals, the therapist will suggest other therapeutic modalities that will better assist clients to reach their counseling goals.



Please Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital for emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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