Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, known as EMDR Therapy, is a form of psychotherapy that helps people process through the traumatic experiences that contribute to anxiety, PTSD, panic disorders, and depression.
EMDR therapy was founded by Dr. Francine Shapiro. While taking a walk one day, she discovered that her troubling thoughts and feelings had mysteriously disappeared. Puzzled by this phenomenon, she began experimenting. During her research, she discovered that when she moved her eyes back and forth rapidly while having disturbing thoughts, the thoughts began to fade away. This discovery prompted her to create a protocol that could be duplicated and tested, a protocol later called EMDR therapy.
EMDR Therapy and How It Works
When we experience traumatic events, our pre-frontal cortex loses control over the activated amygdala and hippocampus. This means we can become overwhelmed and may have trouble thinking. Therefore, traumatic events can become trapped in the amygdala-hippocampal complex and feel like they are occurring in the present when triggered. These memories are “trapped” and are considered by some to be unprocessed memories.
Usually, memories are processed during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. They do not become “trapped,” and move through the amygdala-hippocampal complex rather smoothly. REM sleep and EMDR essentially cause the individual to experience the same process. During an EMDR therapy session, you will focus on a specific memory and rapidly move your eyes back and forth, just like when you are having a dream. This eye movement allows the over-stimulated amygdala to slow down and process traumatic memories the same as you would with any other memories.
Who can benefit?
While EMDR therapy is most commonly used for those who have suffered through a traumatic event, it can also be used in plenty of other circumstances. The Dallas Collective put together a list of reasons why someone might benefit from EMDR therapy.
- Single incident traumas (such as car accidents, destructive weather events, being robbed, etc.)
- Low self-esteem
- Relationship difficulties
- Domestic violence
- Performance enhancement (sports, music, etc.)
- Feeling stuck in life
- Childhood trauma
- Sexual assaults or physical assaults
- Social anxiety
- Feelings of rejection
- Trust issues/affairs
If you want to take a break from talk therapy and give EMDR a try, you should consult with your current therapist. If you don’t have a therapist, feel free to do your own research at EMDR Institute.
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