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EMDR Therapy

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What Is EMDR Therapy?

When we experience something traumatic, the way that our memories get stored can disrupt our brain’s normal process. Rather than the experience getting stored as a long-term memory that gradually recedes over time, distressful memories often remain in the part of the brain where they feel more visceral and immediate. Despite having happened years earlier, any reminder of this event can trigger physical and emotional responses that take us right back to that moment.


“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a structured psychotherapy used to help patients with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) resolve upsetting memories.” [1] By enlisting the brain’s natural ability to heal itself, EMDR therapy can reduce the emotional distress associated with traumatic experiences.

In the late 1980s, Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., discovered a relationship between bilateral eye movements and distressing memories. In time, eye movement therapy developed into a formal treatment shown to be effective, both in research and practice. EMDR is now considered to be one of the best treatments for PTSD and trauma and is practiced worldwide. EMDR has been endorsed as an effective therapy by many organizations, including the American Psychiatric Association, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USVA), and the Department of Defense (USDOD), and the World Health Organization (WHO). [2]

What EMDR Therapy Sessions Look Like 

EMDR therapy is a multi-phase treatment that includes history-taking, emotional preparation, identifying a traumatic memory while beginning side-to-side eye movements, closure, and review. Initially, the client will be informed of the process by the EMDR counselor. By establishing rapport, the therapist will also ensure that clients feel safe and calm before getting underway with EMDR.

Once prepared for EMDR therapy, the client will identify a specific traumatic memory while participating in bilateral stimulation, a technique used to simultaneously engage both hemispheres of the brain. The bilateral stimulation caused by eye movements will aid in unlocking the memory so that it can be processed and stored properly. 

Throughout the desensitization phase of EMDR therapy, clients will be reminded to stay in the present moment and observe their memories from a distance. Much like riding a train and watching the scenery go by when recalling the distressful memory, it’s helpful that clients just ‘notice’ the experience, allowing whatever comes up to pass through. It will be up to the client whether or not they want to talk about the memory with their therapist.

Although EMDR is known for being an accelerated trauma treatment, the number of sessions required before seeing results may vary. This will depend upon the client’s history and how long it may take them to develop trust and rapport with their counselor before getting underway with EMDR. 

Other Things To Know About EMDR Counseling

The EMDR I offer can be incorporated into broader trauma therapy or sought out as a stand-alone treatment that includes approximately eight sessions of the eye movement protocol. A typical EMDR therapy session is 60-90 minutes. While EMDR can be administered effectively both in-person and virtually, my practice is fully virtual practice at this time. I utilize an integrative online platform that ensures EMDR sessions will be as effective virtually as they would be in person.

Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is a structured, targeted treatment for PTSD and symptoms related to trauma. The main goal of EMDR therapy is to reduce or eliminate symptoms such as nightmares, intrusive memories, flashbacks, avoidance, negative beliefs or emotions, and hyperarousal. In addition to other distressing experiences, EMDR can be effective for those who have experienced childhood trauma, emotional abuse, neglect, or physical or sexual assault, as well as people in high-stress occupations, like active-duty soldiers or first responders. 

There have been over thirty randomized control studies conducted on EMDR therapy that demonstrate its strong clinical outcome in adults diagnosed with PTSD. Results show that EMDR therapy significantly decreases and/or eliminates PTSD diagnosis and symptoms. [3] Studies have also shown improvement in the associated symptoms of anxiety and depression when EMDR treatment is utilized for trauma. [4] 

My Experience As A Trauma Therapist 

I have been treating trauma and PTSD since 2013 in a variety of clinical settings, including hospitals and private practice. My practice is informed by evidence-based approaches to treatment, including EMDR and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) for trauma, as well as more traditional talk therapy to address other common mental health conditions. As EMDR is considered a cutting-edge treatment for trauma, I am happy to offer it as a service within my practice.

EMDR therapy is unique compared to other therapies in that it does not require talking in detail about the trauma or completing homework between sessions. What’s more, it does not involve trying to actively modify or change distressing thoughts, feelings, or behaviors resulting from trauma. Rather, linking up two networks of the brain that haven’t been communicating with each other allows the disturbing memory to be processed appropriately and for healing to occur organically.

Suffering from trauma can negatively impact your quality of life. Fortunately, we now have effective treatments available for treating PTSD. I include EMDR therapy in my practice because it is well-established, evidence-based, and reliable. If you feel like past trauma is holding you back, EMDR offers hope that you can find peace.

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Find Out How EMDR Therapy Can Help You

You deserve to enjoy your life. If you would like to learn more about EMDR therapy and how working with a trauma therapist can help you, please visit my contact page


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