EMDR is used Effectively to Treat PTSD Trauma and Abuse

Monday, October 10, 2016 @ 9:15 AM

Recently, I took training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). The name alone is daunting and it took some practice to say the full name correctly and describe the therapy to my clients in a way in which they could wrap their brain around it. Because it is true “brain processing” and not traditional psychotherapy, forces me to put on a different therapeutic hat when facilitating an EMDR session. It is important for my clients to understand the reasoning behind the theory and what to expect.

Before I describe my own experience as a recent client of EMDR, I would like to explain how EMDR works. Per the EMDR National Association’s website, “the goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems and to include new ones that are needed for full health. "Processing" does not mean talking about it. "Processing” means creating a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be "digested" and stored appropriately in your brain.” Even this explanation is difficult to comprehend.

In layman’s terms, EMDR, which is most commonly used for PTSD, trauma and abuse, helps our own brain and memories make sense of what has happened to us, replace our disturbing thoughts with more pleasant ones and store the traumatic memories in a different part of the brain in a way that will not “trigger” one to the point of distress when that painful thought reoccurs. In other words, a “useful” outcome of a disturbing experience will be “learned and stored” with appropriate emotions and your brain will be able to guide you in positive ways in the future (EMDRIA, 2016). Furthermore, the client’s brain does all the work with little input from the therapist. Is this amazing or what?

As a therapist that specializes in trauma and abuse, I had been looking for ways to help my clients get to the next step in their healing. I have always been intrigued, but somewhat skeptical of the therapy. Therefore, I eagerly volunteered at my EMDR training to be the guinea pig—and what I experienced took all the skepticism away. Here is a very abbreviated description of me receiving EMDR treatment.

As the therapy began, I was asked to bring up a target event from the past, which was disturbing to me. As I began to visualize that experience in my mind, I was asked to describe the sensations and notice where I was feeling it in my body. I was then asked to state a belief of how “I felt” about the event. As I tracked the therapist’s fingers moving my eyes left to right I was asked to “process” what was coming to mind. After several rounds, I could feel a swell of emotions and feelings rising to the surface. My face began to flush and I began to experience a relaxing and calming feeling as the eye movement therapy continued. After approximately 20 minutes, I was asked to associate a new more positive belief with the disturbing situation. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. I began to feel less stressed and developed new insight about my disturbing target event. In the end, my anxiety was close to a zero level. I was emotionally drained after the session, but felt so light and free.

After this experience, I was a believer. My clients are now benefitting greatly from this additional therapy technique in my practice. The fact that EMDR is the most researched therapy, gives me assurance that I can recommend this to many clients that need the next step toward their healing. If you or someone you know are interested in EMDR, please call me. After all, I understand…I’ve been there.


EMDR International Association (2016). https://emdrisa.site