EMDR Therapy Overview

EMDR Therapy Overview

EMDR Therapy Overview

Since psychology's birth, various therapeutic approaches have developed to help people work through their problems. One relatively new therapy, at least regarding the length of time others have been used, is EMDR therapy, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy. Our experts on EMDR therapy in Orlando offer the following information on how therapists can use it to treat many difficulties.

EMDR therapy

This therapy was developed in the late 1980s when a doctor accidentally discovered that a person's eye movement could reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts and used the observation to encourage research that led to the establishment of EMDR as a therapy for treating post-traumatic stress. Since then, research has proven that EMDR therapy is exceptionally effective in treating PTSD and trauma, as well as other problems like the following:

  • Pain disorders
  • Personality disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Complicated grief
  • Phobias
  • Painful memories
  • Body dysmorphic disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Performance anxiety

How EMDR works

Even though there is no clear way to know how a type of psychotherapy works on a neurological level, we know some things. For example, when a patient is under duress and very upset, their brain cannot process information like it would under normal circumstances. This means that parts of their memory get separately stored and seemingly "frozen" in time.

Once that memory is later activated, a patient often feels like they are experiencing this memory like it is happening currently. The same body sensations, thoughts, and feelings often resurface with the same level of intensity as when an event initially occurred because the patient never processed through them adequately, and therefore they remain within them unchanged. These memories easily interfere with how a patient views and reacts to the world and others around them. This therapy affects how a person's brain processes information and allows the "frozen" memories a chance to process in a highly functional manner. Once a memory has been adequately processed, it does not have the same effect on a patient. As a result, many people leave EMDR therapy feeling very neutral about the impactful memory.

When both the right and left hemispheres of the brain are alternately stimulated through bilateral stimulation, a person can resume normal information processing. This is very similar to what occurs naturally during REM sleep, the sleep cycle where information previously taken in is sorted and processed into long-term or short-term memory networks. If you have ever watched someone during the REM sleep cycle, you likely noticed the darting back and forth of their eyes behind their eyelids. However, this therapy is very different from other treatments working towards similar goals because it works on a physiological level.

Why you should choose EMDR therapy

In short, this therapy is impressive because it can often achieve the same goals as other therapies with many fewer sessions. It is also constructive when talk therapy is ineffective since sometimes a person's experiences get "frozen" in their memory network, and discussing them may not be good enough. EMDR performs on a neurological level to help a patient access those memories in ways that talk therapy is often unable to so that they can work through the painful memory.

Trauma survivors also report that EMDR therapy is optimal because they don't have to speak in detail about a traumatic event for the treatment to be effective. This does not mean that it is not still difficult and painful to bring up, but they do not have to give the whole narrative, and once a memory is activated, a patient can move through the process more efficiently. Our brain moves towards healing much as our bodies do. For example, when you cut your arm, your body works toward healing. Our brains do the same thing, and EMDR helps remove any barriers so it can heal.

That was a brief description of EMDR in Orlando and how it works. This therapy has been effective with adults, teens, and children.

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Heather Oller

Heather Oller is a licensed Orlando therapist at Orlando Thrive Therapy, Coaching & Counseling who specializes in counseling Orlando couples, individuals, and families who are seeking changes in their lives. She has been a mental health professional for over 17 years and is a practicing Orlando counselor that specializes in conflict resolution for couples. You can contact her for an appointment or call 407-592-8997 for more information.