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What Is EMDR?


What Is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based, integrative form of psychotherapy that has been proven effective for the treatment of trauma. Essentially, EMDR facilitates the healing of the intangible.

Experiencing trauma and the ongoing distress of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can be like living with an invisible wound. Often, our traumatic memories are stuck, unable to be processed, and healed. Before treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, people lived their entire lifetimes with the pain of the past overlaying their present, never allowing them to feel fully settled, or fully healed outside of the distress of their traumatic memories.

How Does EMDR Work?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information, including trauma. EMDR helps patients access and process traumatic memories that are “stuck” on repeat in the mind. Following a successful EMDR session, normal information processing is resumed so that a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. While a person can still remember the experience, it becomes less painful. Utilizing eye movements and bilateral stimulation, EMDR activates the brain in a way that helps process, heal, and resolve difficult memories. After sessions of EMDR, patients feel less distress, less conflicted association with their traumatic memories, and experience a greater sense of relief from their past. In addition, EMDR can help to alleviate many of the physical symptoms of arousal and hyper-arousal which can come with PTSD or emotional distress.

What happens during an EMDR session?

During an EMDR session, you will work with a therapist or a clinician who has been specifically trained and certified in EMDR administration. This practitioner will also have an extensive knowledge base regarding trauma. Initial EMDR sessions will focus on trauma history, understanding EMDR, and goals for the sessions. During the active EMDR sessions, patients will recall a disturbing memory or experience while focusing on an external stimulus, like eye movements, hand tapping, auditory stimulation, or bilateral stimulation of another kind.

The stimulation helps the brain process traumatic memories that feel impossible to reach or handle for the patient. With a practitioner’s guidance, memories can be rewritten or have new sensations and associations attached to them. As a result, traumatic memories become “unstuck.” As the traumatic memories are relieved, patients are able to find peace in both mind and body. EMDR can, therefore, be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new, less distressing way.

Does EMDR Work?

According to the EMDR Institute, “More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy,” with some studies showing that after only three 90-minute sessions, “84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder.” Just three sessions can change a diagnosis and relieve what could have been a lifetime of distress. EMDR is widely used in the treatment of mental illness, substance use disorders, and other scenarios to heal not just traumatic memories but any other kind of disturbing memories which might be affecting an individual’s quality of life.



Origins Behavioral Healthcare is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, co-occurring issues such as trauma and PTSD, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. Call us today: 561-841-1296.

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If you or someone you love has a substance use or mental health disorder, Origins Behavioral HealthCare can help. We will work alongside you to provide the most comprehensive treatment available.