You’ve maybe heard of EMDR, and maybe totally get what it is and how it works, or maybe completely don’t. To a lot of people it may sound a little woo-woo at the start. First off, the letters. EMDR  stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This means that through the movement of your eyes, traumatic memories and thoughts are desensitized. The end result, (hopefully!) is that recollection of events no longer causes significant distress, emotionally, mentally or physically. It can also be helpful with slightly more abstract symptoms. I use EMDR techniques a lot with folks to help loosen up the felt senses they might have that don’t necessarily correlate with specific events. For instance, and overall sense of being worthless, unloveable, or flawed. Often there are some memories that corroborate that story, but the events themselves are not the most traumatic component. That’s getting a little ahead, though.

EMDR is a therapy developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987, and there has been significant research and growth since that time. EMDR is an evidence based treatment initially used to desensitize individuals to traumatic memories. Eye movements, or other bilateral (back and forth) stimulation like knee tapping, are combined with a cognitive component and attention to body sensations to reduce the distress experienced by recollection of memories.

The best and most amazing part of EMDR is that the brain is being set up to do a thing that it really already wants to do: heal. We all have a tendency toward wholeness and health, and sometimes that gets derailed by trauma and misinformation. We grow up thinking things that aren’t true about ourselves or the world, and those beliefs thwart our healthy growth. When the pathways start to clear up and new connections are made, it’s an amazing privilege to witness. Brains are awesome!

There are lots of materials that can help move you in the direction of relieving yourself of old and unhelpful belief structures. Francine Shapiro, the mother of EMDR, wrote Getting Past Your Past, a book for consumers to help understand what EMDR is and get the process started on one’s own. It is a great way to be introduced to the concept and begin to sort through what your personal work might include.

I almost always recommend that a person asking for referrals seek someone who is trained in EMDR. Because it is such a robust treatment it can be applied to lots of individual issues, and EMDR therapists are trained to specifically consider the big and historical picture, both of which I think is really important. My experience has been, too, that my clients really get into how family patterns have influenced their current life. If you are local to Kansas City, you can find a therapist through the EMDR GKC (Greater Kansas City) website. Otherwise, the EMDR International Association website has a search option for therapists nationwide as well as internationally. Briefly, the training structure is that therapists must complete Basic Training, Parts 1 and 2, in order to practice. You can then get certified, and become a consultant or trainer. EMDR trained therapists may not all be listed on these links, though, if they are not members of the organizations putting them together. You may have to do some looking around to find a good fit. Personal referrals for therapists are usually best, so ask your friends who they see!

Does EMDR sound good to you? Do you have more questions or experiences to share?

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