EMDR Therapy

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a form of psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy, people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.

EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and cause pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brains information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed EMDR protocols and procedures, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.

How long does EMDR therapy take?

Although each case is unique, according to the EMDR Institute of America (EMDRIA), most cases are resolved with twelve or fewer sessions.

How do you choose an EMDR therapist?

Therapy can be hard work. It's even more difficult if you choose a therapist you don't like, don't respect, or don't trust. Colleen believes finding a therapist you feel comfortable working with is a crucial first step in a successful outcome to the therapy process.

The EMDR Institute recommends asking the following questions:

  1. Has your therapist received both levels of EMDR training?
  2. Was his/her training approved by EMDRIA?
  3. Has your therapist kept informed of the latest protocols and developments?
  4. How many cases has your therapist treated with your particular problem/disorder?
  5. What is his/her success rate?

Please ask any questions and talk about your concerns before you begin therapy.

How to talk to kids about doing EMDR!

(from Ana Gomez: psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and researcher)

Before we talk about what EMDR is, let me tell you about what EMDR does. When we have yucky things that happen to us, we have many mixed-up feelings and many mixed-up thoughts. We do not feel good in our minds, bodies, and hearts. It is like carrying bags of mixed-up stuff. When we are so busy carrying all these bags, we do not have space in our hearts, minds, and bodies for the good feelings and thoughts. EMDR can help kids by making those bags smaller or even get rid of them so kids will have space for he good feelings and the good thoughts. Grown ups have a rather complicated name for EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing but Ana came up with a cool name for kids: Eyes Moving to Digest and Recover!

When kids receive EMDR, one of the things they do is move their eyes from one side to another while they think about the yucky things that happened to them. Most kids don't know this, but they actually do this every night...yes, kids move their eyes every night while they are asleep and are having dreams. Grown ups call this Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycle. Ana calls this the "eyes dancing in the night"! EMDR helpers like Ana can also do other things instead of eye movement. They can tap your hands or knees back and forth or they can use sounds or music that move from one ear to the other.

When yucky things happen, the brain has a hard time putting all the pieces together and as a result, things that people say or do or things that kids see, hear, smell, or touch, can bring up the yucky memories, the mixed-up thoughts, feelings, and body feelings connected to those yucky things. EMDR helps the brain put all the pieces together so the yucky stuff can leave us and the good stuff or the things we learned from it can stay so we get stronger. Then, the brain can chew up and digest all the mixed-up feelings and thoughts as well as the yucky feelings we may have in the body.

As Ana says in her book: EMDR Therapy and Adjunct Approaches with Children: Complex Trauma, Attachment, and Dissociation...

"Why continue to carry bags of yucky stuff in our minds, hearts, and bodies when we can be free from them and find our happy and exciting feelings again?"