What is EMDR?

Updated: Jan 15

What is EMDR? Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a type of therapy used to help clients address negative and traumatic experiences from their past. While negative experiences may happen relatively quickly, they can impact the brain long after they’re over. Unpleasant experiences can also lead to the development of negative believes about oneself, the avoidance of certain people, places, or things, and increases in stress that impact multiple aspects of life. EMDR therapy helps get to the root of mental health issues in order to support the healing process.


What kind of issues can EMDR help with? EMDR can help with a wide range of troublesome memories/past traumatic experiences. There is a long list of issues that often result from past challenges, such as: anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias, relationship problems, bullying, chronic Illness and medical issues, depression, dissociative disorders, grief and loss, pain, performance anxiety, PTSD, sexual trauma, sleep disturbance, substance abuse, neglect, and physical abuse.


How is EMDR different than traditional therapy? EMDR does not require the client to talk in detail about their unpleasant memories. The therapist guides the client in accessing difficult memories for brief periods of time while using a strategic protocol for helping reduce their levels of distress. While we cannot get rid of past negative experiences and memories, it is possible to change our perspectives of them, the way they impact us in the present, and the way we view ourselves.

EMDR Longmont

How does EMDR therapy affect the brain? Just like our bodies can heal from physical injuries like burns or cuts, our brains can heal, too. When a person experiences a traumatic or stressful event, the brain and body react. Each experience a person has can shape the way they think, feel, and act moving forward. EMDR helps the brain reprocess memories so that they do not impact us in the same negative ways that they used to.


How long does EMDR take? The length of EMDR varies depending on the person and the extent of their distress. Some events are processed more quickly (in about 4-5 sessions) and other events take more time to process. When processing trauma, it’s important not to rush things so you don’t become too overwhelmed.

EMDR is broken into 8 different phases to Photo by Valentin Salja on Unsplash

help create structure and accurately assess progress. At the start, the therapist helps the client develop tools for calming down when they become upset. This skill is used throughout treatment so that when challenging memories are processed, the client can use their skills to help maintain a sense of safety.


Are there any risks to EMDR? Revisiting difficulty memories can pose some risks. This is why it’s important that your therapist is properly trained in EMDR and follows the proper structure. Some clients can become very tired after processing memories in EMDR. Other upsetting memories may also arise during treatment, and emotions may become more heightened. Additionally, clients may experience more vivid dreams.


It is important for clients engaging in EMDR to have enough tools and resources to address the potential distress that may arise during treatment. The therapist can help provide some of these tools. And, if you’re not currently feeling stable enough to process troublesome memories, there are other therapeutic tools and resources that can help you work toward being able to use EMDR in the future. Physical health is also an important consideration. If you have health concerns, consult your therapist and your doctor to help you assess potential risks.


How do I know if EMDR is right for me? Every individual is unique and responds differently to their experiences. Things that are upsetting or triggering for one person may not be as upsetting to another person. There are a lot of techniques and tools available, and it’s important to find the ones that fit your needs. There’s no stressor too small to get help for. EMDR trained therapists can tell you if EMDR might be helpful for your situation or if there are other interventions that might be helpful.


EMDR Longmont & Online EMDR

If you have something that is bothering you, feel free to schedule a free consultation to see if EMDR therapy or another type of therapy might be helpful for you. I'm always happy to listen and discuss options with potential clients. I offer EMDR in Longmont, CO, online EMDR, & serve many clients from Boulder, Erie, Berthoud, Lyons, Frederick, Firestone, Dacono, & other surrounding areas.

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