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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)



Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, was first discovered by psychologist Francine Shapiro on a walk through the park. While reflecting on some of her distressing personal memories, Shapiro noticed that as she moved her eyes, the negative emotions she was experiencing seemed to decrease. This led to further experimentation with this technique, and eventually EMDR was born. Today, EMDR is widely used in conjunction with other psychological therapies to de-intensify traumatic memories.

How Does EMDR Work?

While a person is receiving EMDR, they conjure up a memory of a past negative emotional experience while focusing on an external stimulus. Often, light beams are used, but other stimuli like tapping, audio stimulation or simply moving a finger laterally in front of the eyes are also common methods. EMDR takes place in phases, and therapists determine the target memories and future thought to transform the emotion behind the event.

When we experience traumatic event or intense and negative emotional experience, our brain develops strong neural pathways associated with that memory. EMDR works by creating new neural pathways associated with those memories, lessening their intensity over time. Our brains have a natural healing process – just like our bodies heal our wounds – but if the wound is too deep, outside help may be necessary to activate the healing process.

Is EMDR Effective?

Research shows the remarkable effectiveness of EMDR in treating trauma. Studies show that 84 to 90 percent of single-trauma victims no longer meet the criteria for PTSD after only three, 90-minute EMDR sessions. One of the main draws of this technique is the lack of verbalization necessary. An EMDR therapist can be effective without knowing many of the details behind the trauma experienced – trauma victims don’t have to articulate their memories out loud and can simply follow their therapist’s instructions in silence.

Disorders Commonly Treated With EMDR

While EMDR is most recognized as a therapy for trauma disorders, there has also been research supporting its effectiveness in treating:

  • Panic disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Phobias
  • Anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Personality disorders

EMDR for Teens and Young Adults

Especially for teens and young adults, EMDR can be a valuable alternative (or complement) to conventional talk therapy. It’s particularly effective at this stage of development due to young people’s neuroplasticity – that is, the ability of their brains to create new connections. EMDR can allow teens and young adults to take their first steps towards recovery long before they would have otherwise, and they have a better chance of success than their older counterparts.

EMDR for Substance Use Disorder and Addiction

It is estimated that as many as 45% of people who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder also struggle with substance abuse. In this case, treating trauma is a crucial part of treating or preventing addiction. Many teens and young adults who abuse substances are seeking an escape from the anxiety and pressure they’re experiencing. EMDR can be a healthy alternative to harmful substances, and provide a way for young people to truly change the way they feel.

Though the benefits of EMDR are well documented, therapists who administer EMDR are required to have special training, certifications, and equipment. If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of EMDR for your teen or young adult, the caring and professional staff at Sandstone are here to help you explore your options – give us a call today at 888-850-1890 to learn more.

Brainspotting, or BSP, is a therapeutic tool that can be used to help you process trauma in a gentle way.
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