What is EMDR Therapy and How It Can Benefit You?

Initially created to treat trauma, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an interactive technique used in psychotherapy. When done correctly, it can relieve psychological stress by changing how memories are stored in the brain.

Taking care of your mental health is as important as maintaining your physical health. It is the basis of your well-being to form a healthy relationship between yourself and others. Thankfully, there are increasing resources and strategies to help tailor this work to various individuals and their needs. When it comes to mental health, one size doesn’t fit all. Finding a form of therapy that best suits your needs is crucial. In this article, we take a deeper look into EMDR therapy.

What is EMDR

Initially created to treat trauma, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an interactive technique used in psychotherapy. When done correctly, it can relieve psychological stress by changing how memories are stored in the brain. Developers of this therapeutic modality recognized that post-traumatic stress can be triggered by unpleasant and traumatic memories.

For this reason, it is crucial to process traumatic memories Otherwise, sounds, sights, words, and smells can awaken painful memories, making you live through them mentally again. This cycle—triggering event, resurfacing of traumatic memories, negative emotional response—can lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).

During EDMR therapy, a specialist will take you through a series of bilateral eye movements while simultaneously asking you to recall triggering memories until these experiences don’t bother you anymore. Once exclusively reserved for those diagnosed with PTSD, practitioners currently use EMDR for treating anxiety, addiction, chronic pain, depression, eating disorders, panic attacks, poor self-esteem and other issues.

Is EMDR effective?

At first glance, EMDR may seem like an unusual approach to therapy. How can eye movements help with dealing with painful memories? Scientists are still trying to explain why this therapy works, but most experts believe that thinking about painful memories becomes less upsetting if you don’t give your full attention to them.

As a patient recalls these events, the bilateral stimulation (BLS) takes their mind off the unpleasant thoughts.

Many studies have confirmed the positive effects of EMDR therapy. In a 2014 review, scientists explained that it could help relieve emotional distress after traumatic experiences. The World Health Organization and American Psychological Association, among other organizations, recommend EDMR instead of cognitive behavioural therapy for individuals severely affected by trauma.

Just two years ago, a review of six studies concluded that EMDR therapy could also be beneficial for treating psychosis. However, researchers still need to conduct more studies to fully understand the advantages of this therapy.

How can you find an EMDR therapist?

If you feel that EMDR therapy could be the best option for you, locate a certified EMDR therapist in your area. EMDR Canada or EMDRIA websites have directories to help your search. Given that many therapists practice multiple modalities, here are a couple of questions to review as you meet therapists:

  • Do you have specific EMDR credentials? What training have you completed?
  • Do you follow the latest EMDR training and research?
  • Why do you think EMDR might be a beneficial therapy for me?
  • What will happen during each meeting?
  • Will I need any sessions prior to beginning EMDR therapy?

An American psychologist named Francine Shapiro developed EMDR therapy in the late 1980s. Since then, it has become a popular method for treating a variety of disorders and, most effectively, for treating PTSD. If you are curious and want to learn more about other treatment options and/or find resources on mental health care, follow the Eli’s Place blog.

Eli’s Place will be a rural, residential treatment program for young adults with serious mental illness. To learn more about our mission and our proven-effective model click here.

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