Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) draws on the brain’s innate ability to heal itself and form new connections. A therapist trained in the EMDR approach will be able to tap into the link between eye movement and memory processing.
Because EMDR is based on reprocessing of memories, individuals who may benefit most from EMDR have experienced trauma or have other behavioral health concerns related to memories. EMDR is most commonly associated with the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but can also be used in the treatment of:
EMDR can also help anyone who has experienced trauma even if they have not been officially diagnosed with PTSD.
Positive results can be experienced rapidly during EMDR. The therapy itself follows eight stages of treatment:
EMDR aims to replicate the eye movements made during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the phase in the sleep cycle when events of the day are processed and stored in memory. When events are processed correctly, emotions that are associated with them should fade away. It’s like when you go to sleep angry and frustrated, and then wake up feeling “back to normal.”
Sometimes the events of the day are too much for the brain to handle, and these disturbing or traumatic events aren’t processed properly. As a result, the events are revisited often (i.e., flashbacks) and the emotions associated with those events also linger.
EMDR helps the brain to reprocess those disturbing events and to thus let go of the emotions associated with them. As part of the therapy, the negative memory is processed and paired with a positive self-belief, such as “I am stronger now.” The therapy is repeated as needed in order to target and process all specific memories related to a traumatic event.
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