Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a powerful therapeutic approach that has literally revolutionized the treatment of trauma. But how does EMDR work? Let’s touch on the underlying mechanisms of EMDR and how it helps individuals overcome traumatic experiences.
Reprocessing Traumatic Memories
EMDR operates on the principle that traumatic memories can become “stuck” in the brain. This can result in ongoing distress. We believe that these memories are “inadequately processed”, resulting in their continued activation in daily life. EMDR aims to help reprocess these memories, allowing them to be better integrated into a person’s life experience.
Bilateral what? At the heart of EMDR is the use of bilateral stimulation. This means we engage both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. Various techniques are used, such as rhythmic eye movements, tactile stimulation, or auditory cues. Employing bilateral stimulation appears to enhance the brain’s natural ability to process and integrate information.
Desensitization and Reprocessing
During EMDR, a patient is guided by a trained therapist to focus on the traumatic memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. Doing so initiates a state of desensitization, which reduces the “emotional charge” associated with the memory.
Installation of Adaptive Beliefs
EMDR also incorporates something called the installation of positive and adaptive beliefs to replace negative beliefs that may have developed. Through guided therapy, the individual is encouraged to develop a more realistic and empowering perspective.
Integration and Consolidation
The reprocessed traumatic memories become integrated into a person’s overall life narrative, enabling emotional healing and resolution. The distressing symptoms gradually diminish, and individuals often report a significant reduction in anxiety, depression, and other trauma-related symptoms.
Seasons of Strength provides effective mental health therapy to adults, couples, and families. We specialize in treating PTSD, depression, anxiety, and trauma with an emphasis on EMDR. We help clients across the Washington DC region.