EMDR. What is it and how does it work? Maybe you have heard about it and are wondering if it’s right for you. Maybe you have no idea what it is and came across this page out of curiosity. Either way, I am glad you are here, and I hope this page can answer some of your questions.
Let’s start with a short video that will give you some important background.
What is EMDR? EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR, as with most therapy approaches, focuses on the individual’s present concerns. The EMDR approach believes past emotionally-charged experiences are overly influencing your present emotions, sensations, and thoughts about yourself. As an example: “Do you ever feel worthless although you know you are a worthwhile person?”
EMDR processing helps you break through the emotional blocks that are keeping you from living an adaptive, emotionally healthy life.
EMDR uses rapid sets of eye movements to help you update disturbing experiences, much like what occurs when we sleep. During sleep, we alternate between regular sleep and REM (rapid eye movement). This sleep pattern helps you process things that are troubling you.
EMDR replicates this sleep pattern by alternating between sets of eye movements and brief reports about what you are noticing. This alternating process helps you update your memories to a healthier present perspective.
What does an EMDR session look like?
Overall Treatment Planning
- You have come to treatment expressing concerns.
- Your therapist will help you understand the dynamics of the presenting concerns and how to adaptively manage them.
- An overall treatment plan will be developed that will accomplish your goals.
- Within that treatment plan, EMDR, along with other therapy approaches, will be used to accomplish your treatment goals.
The EMDR session:
- You will be asked a set of questions to access and activate the negative experience and the desired adaptive resolution.
- Sets of rapid eye movement (or other forms of bilateral stimulation) will be applied.
- You will be encouraged to just “free associate” and allow the brain to work through the experience.
- Sets of eye movements will be alternated with brief reports about what you are experiencing.
- EMDR processing will continue until the past experience has been updated to an adaptive present perspective.
- With long standing issues, this process may take multiple sessions.
Using what you’ve learned
- Once the disturbing experiences have been updated, you and your therapist will work together to integrate these new insights and perspectives into your daily life.
Commonly Asked EMDR Questions
Is it necessary to tell my therapist all the details about my problems in order for it to be processed?
- No, it is not necessary to talk about all the details of your experiences for them to be processed.
Will I get emotional?
- Yes, you may. Emotions and sensations may come up during processing; although, you will be prepared and your therapist will help you safely manage them. Once they are processed, they rarely come back!
Is EMDR like hypnosis?
- No. During EMDR processing, you are present and fully in control.
Is EMDR a brief treatment?
- EMDR, as with all treatment approaches, will help you accomplish your treatment goals.
- The length of time that it takes is dependent upon the complexity of your problems.
- Frequently, EMDR is only one of several treatment approaches that will be used to help you reach your treatment goals.
(Information adapted from www.emdrconsulting.com)
Here is an additional, brief animated video to provide more background on EMDR and how it works.