What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) functions off of the idea that past disturbing experiences will continue to cause someone distress because the memory (which can include emotions, thoughts, beliefs, and physical sensations) itself was not fully processed. This approach places a direct focus on the memory with the intention to change how that memory is stored in an individual’s brain, ultimately reducing or eliminating their distressing symptoms.

During a disturbing or upsetting event, our brain’s information processing system can get stuck. This can cause a disconnect between what you experience (feel, hear, or see) and what your brain ends up storing as a memory. The way that trauma memories are stored in the brain can be viewed as a wound on your brain that hasn’t been allowed to heal. Because it hasn’t healed, your brain doesn’t understand that the dangerous event is over. When you recall the event or you become triggered, you may get pulled back to the unprocessed memory and the trauma may feel like it’s happening in the present.

EMDR’s procedure uses eye movements and other forms of bilateral stimulation, like tones or taps, in addition to guided instruction from your clinician. The client will focus on their traumatic memory while also experiencing a bilateral stimulation, this helps reduce the vividness and emotion of their specific memory.

Close-up of eye representing EMDR

How can EMDR help?

EMDR can help you access memories from a traumatic event in a specific way. The reprocessing that occurs during the bilateral stimulation and guided instruction helps to essentially repair the injury from that memory. Remembering the traumatic event will feel less and less like you’re reliving it and the associated feelings will become more manageable.

Who is a good candidate for EMDR?

While EMDR is best known for treating PTSD, it can also help treat other conditions like trauma disorders, anxiety disorders, depression disorders, dissociative disorders, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and personality disorders.

Although it can’t treat all mental health conditions, EMDR is a very effective way of helping people of all ages with traumatic memories. For more information on EMDR basics, check out our blog post from Anna Saviano.

If you’re interested in EMDR, reach out to Heartland Therapy Connection to set up an appointment with an EMDR-trained clinician or give us a call at 816-287-0252.

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