Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

What is EMDR?

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By Natalie Stamper, Psy.D

Coming to terms with adverse times in life is not an easy feat when taking it on alone. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic technique that helps relieve post-traumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorders, and addiction. While pain from the past is a vital part of personal development, painful thoughts and memories do not have to remain as a cause of stress forever. It is okay to retain strong negative emotions about something from the past, but allowing it to remain a hindrance to wellness can quickly become a problem. This is where EMDR comes in.

In essence, EMDR entails utilizing REM-based eye-movements when thinking about traumatic memories to aid in processing trauma. One’s recollection of an event does not change; however, one’s perception does. Instead of feeling fearful or weak due to an event, one can feel confident or strong for surviving it (EMDR Institute). The process of EMDR starts with a review of one’s history and healing process. From there, specific memories are chosen and recollected in detail, going all the way to the physical sensations experienced in these memories. Periodically the therapist will ask the subject to identify emotions felt regarding these memories; over time, the sense of distress should fade away (Gotter).

Progress will constantly be evaluated throughout this process. EMDR has been found to significantly reduce PTSD symptoms in the long term with the added benefit of lacking the side effects that come with prescribed medicine. EMDR has a relatively low dropout rate and has not been found to worsen PTSD symptoms during treatment (Gotter).

EMDR is a powerful tool to further one’s wellness by prompting one to process their traumas and gain a more positive outlook on life. While difficult times cannot always be avoided, it is one’s mindset and attitude that allow for growth. There is no need to forget negative experiences, but rather remember them for what they are: the past. The past does not have to hinder anyone indefinitely. It is just as possible to use the past as a source of strength instead of a weakness.


References

Gotter, Ana. “What You Need to Know About EMDR Therapy.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 July 2019, www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy.

“What Is EMDR?: EMDR Institute – EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY.” EMDR Institute, Inc., EMDR Institute, Inc., www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/.

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