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How Does EMDR Work?


Why EMDR Works: helping your brain reprocess trauma


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has become a powerful tool for healing trauma. But what exactly makes it work? While the science is still evolving, EMDR seems to tap into the brain's natural ability to process and integrate disturbing memories.


The Scars of Trauma


Imagine your brain is a filing cabinet. When we experience a traumatic event, the memory gets stored differently than a normal one. It might be fragmented, lacking context or connection to other memories. This can lead to intense emotions, flashbacks, and nightmares.


EMDR: Refiling the Trauma


EMDR works by revisiting the traumatic memory in a safe, controlled environment. Here's the key element: bilateral stimulation (BLS). This involves rhythmic back-and-forth eye movements, tapping, or tones.


Theories Behind BLS


While the exact reason is unknown, BLS is thought to:

  • Activate both hemispheres of the brain: Some believe this helps reprocess the memory more effectively, similar to what happens during REM sleep when our brains consolidate memories and emotions.

  • Reduce activity in the amygdala: This part of the brain is responsible for our fight-or-flight response. BLS can help calm this overactive response, allowing for more rational processing.

  • Facilitate emotional release: By revisiting the memory with BLS, intense emotions associated with the trauma can surface and be processed in a healthy way.


EMDR is More Than Just Eye Movements


It's important to understand that BLS is just one piece of the puzzle. EMDR therapy is a structured approach with distinct phases:


  • Assessment: You and your therapist will explore the traumatic memory and its impact on your life.

  • Preparation: You'll learn coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques to manage strong emotions that may arise during processing.

  • Desensitization: You'll focus on the traumatic memory while engaging in BLS. As you process, the memory may become less emotionally charged.

  • Installation: You'll identify positive beliefs about yourself to replace any negative ones associated with the trauma.

  • Evaluation: You'll track your progress and address any new issues that may emerge.


EMDR is not a one-size-fits-all solution, and the number of sessions can vary depending on the complexity of the trauma. However, research shows it can be a highly effective tool for healing PTSD and other trauma-related conditions.


Unlocking Your Healing Potential

If you're struggling with the effects of trauma, EMDR therapy could be a valuable option.  If you want to hear more about EMDR or want to discuss how you think EMDR could help you personally please contact me via my website. 

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