Definition of EMDR

EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, is a method of treatment that can help you finally heal deep emotional wounds and let go of your past.

Born out of research to help victims of violent crimes and PTSD in combat veterans, EMDR has been shown to help with a variety of symptoms beyond its initial intentions. This method has helped countless people find relief from their symptoms—and in some cases full-remission.

EMDR is a targeted and ‘tailored-to-you’ approach that is built on sound principles but flexible to ensure optimal comfort. EMDR is endorsed by the World Health Organization, American Psychological Association, Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The creator of EMDR, Dr. Francine Shapiro, describes the process by stating, “EMDR Therapy targets the unprocessed memories that contain the negative emotions, sensations and beliefs. By activating the brain’s information processing system, the old memories can then be “digested.” Meaning what is useful is learned, what is useless is discarded, and the memory is now stored in a way that is no longer damaging.”

Based on the use of emotional activation and bilateral stimulation of the brain, EMDR helps reveal the origins of old patterns, belief systems and emotional reactions. Once revealed, new associations, beliefs and emotions can be learned and experienced. Where there once was only fear, pain, or distress, now there are new patterns, belief systems, and emotional responses taking root.

Jessica’s Story

When Jessica arrived for her first meeting, she was anxious, apologetic and timid. Jessica described herself as an achiever who struggled to acknowledge her achievements, skills, and contributions in her relationships and at work. She shared that she was often doubtful of herself and her abilities. She came to therapy to get help with feeling anxious at work after noticing that her anxiety was preventing her from advancing in her career and holding her back in her social life.

As Jessica shared her story, she revealed that she was a shy child who, despite her best efforts, struggled to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. She described her upbringing as ‘pretty good’ while revealing that her mother was often emotionally volatile with moods that were unpredictable and whose words were unforgiving. Jessica remembered being afraid of her mother at times, but ‘that’s just the way she was.’ One of two children, she felt like her parents did the best they could and helped her make it through college “so I don’t have anything to complain about.”

Through EMDR Jessica discovered that the root of her anxiety was an underlying feeling of “never measuring up.” Session after session Jessica made small connections between memories and current feelings that were holding her back. As she progressed in treatment, Jessica discovered the connection between her feelings of “never measuring up” and her inability to keep her mom happy growing up.

During the process, Jessica remembered a time when she was seven years old and came home from school excitedly to tell her mother about a writing contest she had won at school. After telling her mother about her success, her mother simply walked out of the room, leaving Jessica feeling hurt, devastated, and responsible. As she reconnected with this memory, Jessica was able to experience the unprocessed feelings she had been holding onto since age seven–the disappointment of not being seen and the hurt of being ignored–and reprocess those feelings.

As Jessica worked through this memory and others like it, things started to shift for Jessica. Week after week Jessica began acting with more courage, more assertiveness, and speaking up at work and in her relationships without being held back by the fear of the disapproval of others. Jessica had discovered and healed the root of her fear of “never measuring up”; as a result, she reclaimed her own power to act in her life.

Want to learn more?

EMDR is not a guaranteed cure and doesn’t work for everyone; however, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that it may be a viable treatment method for trauma, PTSD, general anxiety, social anxiety, performance anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, phobias, codependency, depression, sexual dysfunction, and performance enhancement.

If you’re considering treatment for EMDR or would like to learn more about if we can help your specific situation, give us a call for your FREE 20-Minute consultation. If you reach our voicemail, please leave a message; your phone call will be returned as soon as possible.