What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables you to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that result from disturbing or traumatic life experiences. Research shows that by using EMDR therapy you can experience the benefits of psychotherapy in a shorter amount of time than traditional therapy services. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time, even years, to heal, but with EMDR you can get the help you need faster and reduce your suffering. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing can resume. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If that system of healing is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Using the detailed protocols and procedures of EMDR therapy, I can help you activate your natural healing processes and find peace.

Why Should You Use EMDR?

If you have experienced an emotionally traumatic life event, or multiple traumas, it can be difficult to move on from those intense emotions. Many people find themselves unable to live productive, peaceful lives because of it. If you have tried traditional mental health therapies and are still suffering, EMDR therapy can be the relief you’ve been looking for. More than 30 studies have been done on EMDR therapy to study its effectiveness on emotional healing. Some of the studies show that 84-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in just 12 sessions. There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “everyday” memories that can cause low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and the myriad of problems that may bring you in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use EMDR to help people heal. Millions of people have been treated successfully over the past 25 years through the use of EMDR therapy.

What Does EMDR Treatment Look Like?

EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment and combines different elements to maximize effects. Complete treatment involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. We focus on past disturbing memories and related events, as well as current situations that cause distress. We also focus on developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions. Eye movements (or other rhythmic visual, auditory, or tactile external stimuli) are used during one part of the session.

After I have determined which memory to target first, I’ll ask you to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use your eyes to track my hand as it moves back and forth across your field of vision. As this happens, internal associations arise and you begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.”

Unlike talk therapy, the insights you gain in EMDR therapy result not as much from the therapist’s interpretation, but from your own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. Through this process, you’ll be empowered by the very experiences that once caused you pain. Your wounds will not just close, they will transform. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the client’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution — all without speaking in detail or doing homework as often used in other therapies.

The goal of EMDR therapy is to completely process 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 setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. This allows you to discard unhelpful emotions, beliefs, and body sensations associated with the traumatic past experiences.

The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the history of the client. Through EMDR therapy, you’ll gain the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that lead to healthy and productive behaviors and interactions. Although EMDR may produce results more rapidly than other forms of therapy, speed is not the issue and it is important to remember that every client has different needs.

I received EMDRIA-approved EMDR Training and offer EMDR therapy in-person in my office located in Troy, Montana, as well as remotely via HIPAA-compliant secure video.