Updated: Jul 23
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a therapy technique that has historically been used to treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). More recently, it has been shown to be effective in the treatment of other mental health conditions.
How does EMDR work?
At its most basic level, EMDR changes the way our brain processes traumatic memories so that we’re able to relate to them in a healthier and more productive way, effectively repairing the damage done by the traumatic event.
EMDR is based on the theory that our brain stores traumatic memories differently than other types. Non-traumatic memories are stored smoothly and our brain creates a network connecting them together. With traumatic memories, our brain separates them from that network, creating a type of wound that doesn’t heal on its own. Because healing doesn’t take place, our brain never gets the message that the danger has passed, and new experiences can trigger the pain of the traumatic event all over again, causing us to feel overwhelmed by fear, anxiety, and panic.
During EMDR therapy, you work with a trained clinician who guides you through phases, one of which is accessing the traumatic memory through bilateral stimulation. Accessing the memory in this way enables you to experience the event in a way that feels less traumatic, less upsetting, and less controlling. The bilateral stimulation can involve following a clinician’s hand from right to left at a prescribed pace and duration or by the client performing the bilateral stimulation on themselves with the clinician’s guidance. With this method, the client might cross and tap their upper arms, tap their thighs, hold buzzers in their hands, or follow a light from side to side.
Who is EMDR appropriate for?
EMDR is appropriate for anyone assessed by their therapist as having a stable foundation, a strong support system, and adequate coping skills. While it is mostly used with people who suffer from the effects of traumatic experiences, especially PTSD, it has been shown to be effective in the treatment of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, personality disorders, and those with a genetic mental illness. It is not appropriate for anyone in crisis or the first stages of recovery.
Can EMDR be done virtually?
Yes! All of the steps - patient history and information gathering, preparation and education, assessment, desensitization and reprocessing, installation, body scan, closure and stabilization, and reevaluation and continuing care - can all take place in in-person sessions or through telehealth sessions. Depending on the type of traumatic memory, EMDR can take place in as few as three and as many as 12 sessions, each typically lasting between an hour and 90 minutes.
How do I get started with EMDR?
Gooding Wellness Group has trained EMDR clinicians on staff. Contact us to schedule a consultation. During that visit, you’ll work with the clinician to determine if EMDR is right for you, and have all your questions answered. Because it is important to create a safe space and allow for a trusting relationship between the therapist and the client, the first steps include building rapport and reviewing your history. You’ll spend multiple sessions together creating and building a safe space for EMDR work, both in and outside of sessions.