Let’s Talk EMDR Therapy!

You may have heard about EMDR if you are involved in the therapy world, and maybe you are curious about it. EMDR is relatively new and has been making the rounds in many treatment centers, and for good reason! Even if you are new to EMDR, this post goes over all the information you need to decide if it’s something you may benefit from.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

EMDR is a specific treatment modality some therapists have the opportunity to be trained in. It is mainly used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but can be used for a variety of issues including phobias, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and more. It was first created by Francine Shapiro in the 1980’s. Dr. Shapiro initially used EMDR to successfully treat veterans who were experiencing significant PTSD symptoms from their time in combat. It has only grown from her initial work in the 80’s.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR uses bilateral stimulation (back and forth movement) to reprocess traumatic experiences. EMDR consists of 8 phases that the client and the therapist will move through in order to fully reprocess the client’s trauma. The bulk of EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation which will desensitize the client to their experience while also linking positive memory networks in order to create a more regulated response to the experience.

Our brains are naturally wired to be able to process through difficult experiences and return to homeostasis. However, when an individual experiences trauma, there is a block that can occur which can result in distress and possible mental illness. EMDR relies on the brain’s natural process to allow the client to return back to baseline.

woman looking at therapist's finger in EMDR therapy

Eye movements are the most common form of bilateral stimulation used in EMDR. The client, with the support of the therapist, will move their eyes back and forth while they are instructed to focus on their traumatic experience. Other forms of bilateral stimulation include auditory, where a sound will bounce back and forth using a headset, and tactile, where vibrations are used to move back and forth.

How long does EMDR treatment take and is it right for you?

EMDR treatment can take anywhere from 1-2 sessions to many months’ worth of sessions depending on the severity of trauma. However, most individuals progress through EMDR faster than they would regular talk therapy because our brains ability to process happens faster than our mouths can talk about it.

Most people find that EMDR can be a very challenging process but they are also free to talk as much or as little about their trauma as they want because all the processing happens in their brain. This is different from traditional talk therapy where clients are encouraged to share everything about their experience.

EMDR is a very rewarding and very exhausting process, and not all therapist are trained. If you feel EMDR might be right for you, please consult with a trained EMDR therapist to learn more. At The Lotus Center we have therapists that are trained in EMDR and have found great success in treating their clients with this modality. If you have further questions please reach out to Aubree Payne at aubree@lotusslc.org to find out more!

Written by Aubree Payne, LCSW