What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a form of therapy that helps people heal from trauma and/or other distressing life experiences.
Depression can make a person feel hopeless, stuck, and overwhelmed. Traumatic and stressful life events often contribute to depressive symptoms such as negative thoughts, empty or sad feelings, low sense of self-worth, and difficulty finding pleasure in life. EMDR therapy can provide relief for these depressive symptoms and help reframe negative beliefs, resolve unprocessed trauma and adverse experiences, improve energy and mood, and create a more positive understanding of the self and others.
EMDR therapy can be used alone or with other approaches to create and promote a safe environment for clients to achieve their goals.
How EMDR Helps?
Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion).
While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, sometimes help is needed to process blocks caused by stress responses. Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts.
When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of overwhelm, of being back in that moment, or of being frozen in time. EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved, and the memory feels farther away.
The memory moves from maladaptive to adaptive resolution.
What EMDR is Like?
After you and your therapist agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, and begin to work together, you will be asked to focus on a specific event. Attention will be given to an image, beliefs, feelings, and body sensations related to this event.
While you bring up the upsetting event, the therapist will begin sets of side-to- side eye movements, sounds, or taps. Between sets, you will be asked to briefly report any changes without judgement, just noticing.
You may experience shifts of insight or changes in images, feelings, or beliefs regarding the event. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated in silence until the event becomes less disturbing.
Your job during EMDR is to simply pay attention to what is happening ‘on the inside’ and tell the therapist. You are in control of the treatment process.
View a video Introduction to EMDR Therapy here.
“EMDR International Association grants permission to reprint the “EMDR and Depression Toolkit Depression Handout,” ©2022 EMDR International Association.”