Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique that helps people deal with and reprocess old traumas. As you know, trauma comes in all shapes and sizes, and every one of us has experienced something traumatic in our lives. When we have a scary, or sad, or threatening thing happen, our brains pay extra attention to recording all the details of the event. It does this so that we can recognize danger again in the future. That’s why some of our worst memories feel extra vivid and can cause physical reactions of stomach clenching or racing heartbeats when we recall that memory.
EMDR was designed by a therapist as a way to take the emotional charge off of our traumatic memories. The memory is left intact, but it will no longer make you feel scared or queasy or lightheaded when you think of it. The goal of this therapy is to create neutral memories where there used to be painful ones.
EMDR is not talk therapy, it is more movement therapy – specifically eye movement therapy. In the visit you can expect to sit down with a practitioner who will ask you to recall a painful memory. You may spend a few minutes describing your memory, or how your memory makes you physically feel. Then the practitioner will ask to follow their fingers, or the cap on their pen with only your eyes while they rapidly sweep their arms back and forth in front of you. Your eyes are busy following the pen, causing activation in the motion and movement part of your brain. This causes you to reprocess your traumatic memory in your brain’s movement center instead of the emotional center. We repeat these steps a handful of times over the course of a single session, and repeat the entire process over the next few sessions.
I love receiving EMDR, as well as using it with patients because of how rapidly we can achieve breakthroughs and resolution of past painful memories. As with all things, this is not necessarily the right fit for everyone. If you are interested in learning more about EMDR, please contact our office.