What is EMDR?


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a mental health treatment that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the resolution of mental health symptoms from adverse life experiences. Distressing life events can overwhelm a person's ability to cope have a lasting negative effect on mental, emotional, and physical health. EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches for people of all ages suffering psychological distress.

EMDR therapy can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see upsetting experiences in a new and less disturbing way. Though it remains unknown how any form of therapy or psychotropic medication works on the brain, EMDR therapy seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information, similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. In REM sleep, the brain's natural healing process helps to make sense of and integrate experiences into adaptive learning.

The brain’s information processing system works similarly to the body's natural healing process. Just as the body is designed to naturally heal after an injury to restore physical health, the brain is also designed to move toward mental health, unless overwhelmed by distressing events or experiences. When adverse childhood or adult experiences occur, the brain can get overwhelmed and unable to process information as it typically does. Disturbing moments or experiences become stuck in the brain's memory networks as they were originally experienced, continuing to negatively influence beliefs about self, relationships, and life. The brain's information processing system is blocked or out of balance, developing psychological and emotional wounds that can fester and cause suffering. When these blocks in the brain's memory networks are removed, healing occurs just as it does for the body. EMDR trained clinicians use procedures, skills and resources to help clients activate their natural healing processes, without need for sharing details or doing homework.

EMDR therapy facilitates change in the meaning of painful events and the cause of presenting symptoms and issues. Rather than continuing to experience old emotions and beliefs about self that impact present functioning, clients are able to live in the present, knowing they are worthwhile, good enough, did the best they could, are strong, capable, safe enough, with choices in the present.

Unlike talk therapy, the insights gained in EMDR therapy result primarily from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional brain and body processing rather than from the therapist's interpretation. It is the client's own brain that does the healing. Clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling transformed and empowered by the very experiences that once brought them pain.

Adapted from www.emdria.org