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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)



With Laura Swanson

EMDR FAQ Adapted from information at

What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) is a structured therapy that encourages the client to focus briefly on the traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (eye movements, tapping, or sounds), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. EMDR therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms. Ongoing research supports positive clinical outcomes, showing EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019).
How is EMDR therapy different from other therapies?
EMDR therapy does not require talking in detail about the distressing issue or completing homework between sessions. EMDR therapy, rather than focusing on changing the emotions, thoughts, or behaviors resulting from the distressing issue, allows the brain to resume its natural healing process. EMDR therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain. For many clients, EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies.
How does EMDR therapy affect the brain?
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.

Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.

Who can benefit from EMDR therapy?
EMDR therapy helps children and adults of all ages. Therapists use EMDR therapy to address a wide range of challenges:
● Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
● Chronic Illness and medical issues
● Depression and bipolar disorders
● Dissociative disorders
● Eating disorders
● Grief and loss
● Pain
● Performance anxiety

● Personality disorders
● Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) and other
trauma/stress-related issues
● Sexual assault
● Sleep disturbance
● Substance abuse and addiction
● Violence and abuse

Experiencing EMDR Therapy
After the therapist and client agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, the client will work through the eight phases of EMDR therapy with their therapist. Attention will be given to a negative image, belief, emotion, and body sensation related to this event, and then to a positive belief that would indicate the issue was resolved. EMDR therapy may be used within a standard talking therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.


Questions? Reach out to Laura today!


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