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Did you know that an ordinary walk lead to one of the most beneficial treatments for trauma and mental health issues?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, was discovered by psychologist Francine Shapiro in the late 80s while taking a stroll in the park. Struggling with her own distressing memories, Shapiro discovered that as she walked, certain eye movements seemed to help calm her intrusive thoughts and decrease negative emotions. In fact, these eye movements were helping to desensitize her to these memories, in other words, making them less powerful.

After several years of research and refining the technique, we now know EMDR as a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches. This highly respected intervention has been proven effective for the treatment of trauma, as well as a variety of other mental health issues.

What Issues Can EMDR Treat?

  • Trauma and PTSD
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disturbing memories
  • Eating disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Personality Disorders (e.g., Borderline)

How Does EMDR Work?

It appears that EMDR has a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. This is very beneficial to someone who has experienced trauma; as a result, their brain cannot process information as it normally would.

To these people, a moment in time becomes “stuck” in their minds, and they experience the trauma — the sights, sounds, smells, and images over and over again. This, in turn, affects how they see the world around them and relate to other people.

After successful EMDR treatment, the brain can once again process information normally, and the person no longer relives the trauma. While they still remember that the event happened, they are not physically, mentally, or emotionally upset by it. In other words, they become desensitized, just as Shapiro discovered decades ago.

What is perhaps most interesting about EMDR is that it appears to be very similar to what occurs naturally during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. For this reason, EMDR can be considered a physiologically based therapy that helps individuals deal with distressing events in a new and less disturbing way.

What are EMDR Sessions Like?

EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates eight phases of treatment. How long it takes an individual to experience benefits of this therapy depends on their personal history.

Treatment typically targets three different areas: past memories, present disturbance, and future actions. The goal of EMDR is to process information and experiences differently. Each session aims to leave the client with healthy emotions, understanding, and fresh perspectives that will ultimately lead to healing.

How Long Does it Take EMDR to Work?

It’s often helpful to have one or two sessions to allow the therapist to fully understand the nature of their client’s problem and to determine if EMDR therapy will be an appropriate treatment. During these sessions, the therapist will answer any questions you may have about the process. Once you and your therapist agree EMDR is the right way to go, actual therapy can begin.

How many sessions will be required will be based on the type of problem, personal circumstances, and the severity of the trauma. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy session, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.

If you are interested in exploring how EMDR might benefit you, contact us here to learn more or schedule an appointment.