What is EMDR and how can it help me?

by | Jun 10, 2021

During my time as the director of a trauma treatment program, I was constantly seeking the most beneficial trauma informed clinical intervention for my team of providers. I quickly stumbled upon EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy. EMDR was developed in the 1980’s and now has decades of research behind it to treat not only trauma, but common challenges such as anxiety and depression. My first thought was “if this is so effective, I need to learn how to use this!”

EMDR combines the commonly used techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and other types of treatment with an intervention termed “bilateral stimulation.” Bilateral stimulation involves using eye movements, tapping, or other forms of movement to activate the left and right sides of the brain in a rhythmic fashion, similar to that of REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. By activating the brain in this way, we are able to help individuals process information quickly and effectively with an emphasis on reducing the “emotional charge” of memories and events.

Once I was trained in EMDR and began using this technique frequently, I could see what each article and book was talking about. This was fast, this was effective, and this was… odd? I’ve never come across something like it before. But it works!

If you’ve struggled to engage in traditional therapy, EMDR may be beneficial to try. As both a consumer and practitioner of EMDR, I have seen the significant effects the treatment can have on improving specific mental health conditions and reducing overall stress.