Finding a therapist can already be a challenging task, but when you get referred out to a specialist, it can be especially frustrating. In this article we are going to tackle the question, “What is EMDR?”! This popular evidence-based treatment is now becoming the #1 treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and many other mental health diagnoses. EMDR stands for Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Now, that is a mouthful! A therapist may refer a client for EMDR based on a client’s history of trauma or repeated/complex trauma, or a client’s lack of progress in regular talk-therapy.
Before we get to what EMDR is, let’s quickly talk about what happens in our brains. Unfortunately, our brains do not necessarily function from what is logical. It functions from what is stored in the brain. For example, if I say, “Roses are red” what is your response? In the book Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, the author explains that most people have an automatic response, which is “violets are blue.” This is because of what was learned and stored in the brain. As we grow up our brains can “download” several knee jerk reactions that are not necessarily the best response. Think about it. Are all roses red?
Our brains need updates sometimes, just like our phones. EMDR uses bilateral stimulations in order to “rewire” the brain or move towards a desired response. When our phones are glitching we become increasingly irritated because it is stopping us from performing a task effectively. When we have automatic responses, especially negative ones such as running away, shutting down, or continuing an addiction we also feel out of control or even hopeless.
PTSD leads clients to believe they are back in the past/traumatic situation. When they are triggered, their brains do not realize they are no longer living in the past, and they may have an inappropriate response to the present situation. In order to help get clients “unstuck” or function better, they must completely move forward and process the old information and connect with new information. Stimulating the brain with bi-lateral stimulation does just that. It allows clients to move forward physically and mentally.
Below is a link to a video that continues to explain how EMDR helps reprocess: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZVw-9ThmSM