EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing


Common EMDR Questions

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a strongly recommended therapy for trauma memories. Survivors of trauma who suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) highly benefit. EMDR is also used for the treatment of anxiety and depression. It moves traumatic and life affecting memories through the proper channels of the brain to alleviate “gut punch reaction” to them. Therapist and client sit across from each other, and therapist will use eye movement techniques to help client process information and resolve PTSD symptoms. It is NOT hypnosis, rather a different technique that uses eye movements.

What problems does EMDR treat?

EMDR therapy alleviates symptoms of PTSD such as depression, hyper vigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive memories, and anxiety. Trauma includes major traumas like accidents, rape, abuse, war, witness or victim to violent crime, or natural disasters. Trauma can also include disturbing life events (or “little traumas”) such as childhood moments of rejection, embarrassment, disappointment, or failure. Whatever issues that arose from the experience of that trauma are more easily and quickly resolved with EMDR. Such issues include chronic guilt, low self worth, anger, social/relationship/career problems. The list goes on and on. These are just a few examples.

How does it work?

EMDR works very well for the treatment of PTSD and disturbing life events, but the major consensus among researchers is that they are not sure WHY it works; because of the eye movements or because it imaginally exposes the patient repeatedly to the traumatic material. The working theory is that EMDR works by moving information through the brain. Trauma memories are often stuck, much like a clog is stuck in a pipe. EMDR uses eye movements (such as in REM sleep) to help the information move through and unclog the pipe, so to speak. The eye movements in Rapid Eye Movement Sleep are known to help with memory and other information processing tasks of the brain. This is how EMDR is proported to work as well though further research is still needed to concritize this. Once the traumatic memories are processed correctly, changes begin to happen in level of anxiety and depression. EMDR therapy works for individuals who, for their own individual reasons, have not been able to process certain traumatic material adaptively.

Why do you personally like to use EMDR instead of other therapies for trauma?

I prefer EMDR to other therapies for trauma (such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for example) because it is more of a precision technique that sends all of the individuals attention to the source of the pain (the trauma memory) and for prolonged periods of time. It leaves little room for distraction, derailment, tangents, and other defenses used by individuals to avoid looking at the traumatic materal. I also favor it because it incorporates a combination of modalities as it addresses dynamics in the family of origin, is emotionally focused as well as thought focused with a past, present, and future orientation. EMDR therapy for PTSD also tends to take much less time to show results than other therapies. I do believe that a positive, open and comfortable relationship with the therapist is necessary to begin EMDR treatment and therefore will wait until I feel the individual is ready before commencing a course of EMDR.

How long does it take to work?

EMDR is cost effective for single traumas because it resolves them much more quickly than traditional talk therapy. EMDR can begin to do its magic in as little as one session. Most people need 5-10 sessions to see significant improvement. If issues are overly complex, or if you’ve had multiple traumas in your life (such as in the case of incest or sexual abuse in childhood) then EMDR must be used in combination with traditional psychotherapy, and used carefully over a period of time.

Can my regular therapist do it?

Only if your current therapist has been trained by an EMDRIA approved training. Any therapist that has not is NOT qualified, and could potentially do more harm than good.

How much does it cost?

An EMDR session costs the same as a psychotherapy session. $100.00-125.00 per hour.

Has there been any research done on EMDR to prove that it is effective?

Yes, EMDR therapy has been researched exhaustively, proven to be more effective in the treatment of PTSD than Prozac. It is recommended for the treatment of single trauma PTSD by the American Psychiatric Association, and by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Please take your time to look through the body of research that has been done on the efficacy of EMDR here:  EMDR RESEARCH

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