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EMDR Therapy: What It Is And How It Can Help

EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, creati

When people think of psychotherapy, they usually imagine talking with a therapist about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences and even perhaps exploring their behaviors. They may also imagine working through important decisions or examining their past to better understand themselves. In the last several decades, however, forms of psychotherapy have emerged that deal less with the cognitive processes of the mind, and more with the way that experiences and emotions are processed by, and stored in the body. One such approach that you may have heard of is EMDR therapy, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Originally developed in the late 1980s to treat trauma and PTSD, it has since gained popularity for treating other conditions such as depression and anxiety that are rooted in distressing emotional experiences. Here is what you need to know about EMDR.

Understanding EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy begins by examining what is disturbing the client in the present day, and the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that are causing distress. The therapist then asks the client to think back to times in their recent as well as more distant past when they have experienced similar thoughts and feelings. This is done to uncover the “neural network” of experiences, thoughts, and feelings that are connected with the current distress. Before beginning the processing of the difficult memories, the therapist assists the client in developing mechanisms for regulating distressing emotions that might come up in the process and maintaining a sense of safety.

How EMDR Reduces the Impact of Emotional Trauma

At the core of the EMDR process, the therapist asks the client to “hold on” to a specific painful memory and its associated emotions and beliefs, while utilizing bilateral stimulation, side-to-side eye movements, or tapping, to stimulate the nervous system to process the memories in a way that is similar to the way our brain processes thoughts and experiences during the REM cycle of sleep. However, this process is more efficient because it is controlled and deliberate. After a brief period of holding on to the memory during bilateral stimulation, the therapist asks the client to briefly describe what they observed. The patient will then be instructed to “go with it”, free associate, and continue the processing with bilateral stimulation. Sound strange? Perhaps, but many studies have shown EMDR to be highly effective in reducing the emotional impact of traumatic memories and the resulting symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and other psychological disturbances.

When Is EMDR Therapy Effective?

People often consider trying EMDR if they find themselves “stuck” in emotions that are rooted in distressing or traumatic past experiences. They may perhaps have made progress in CBT or other talk therapy on a cognitive level, but still feel overwhelmed by the emotions. Many therapists utilize EMDR as part of an overall treatment plan that includes other modalities. Therapists need to complete extensive specialized training to conduct EMDR, so some clients may see a separate therapist for EMDR therapy. They typically would have EMDR as an adjunctive treatment for some time while continuing with their regular psychotherapy. The length of EMDR treatment can vary depending on the complexity of the traumatic experiences being processed. It is also affected by the level of distress experienced by the client, rapport with the clinician, and other factors. However, it is usually designed to be a relatively short-term treatment approach, with an average duration of 8–12 sessions.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ we have a team of licensed professionals with day, evening, and weekend hours available for individual, couples, or family therapy, including a therapist trained in EMDR. Hellenic Therapy Center is a trusted professional in therapy, offering a wide range of services to address diverse needs. Our offerings include couples therapy, marriage counseling, support for gay and lesbian relationships, assistance with anxiety, panic, and depression, and so many more. We  take a comprehensive approach and offer compassionate support to help you learn to deal with distressing emotions.

For more information about EMDR therapy services, do not hesitate to fill out our contact form, and we will get in touch with you shortly.


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