Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing

FAQs for those considering EMDR:

What conditions does EMDR treat?

ANSWER: The short answer is any symptom rooted in memory and experience can be effectively treated with EMDR!

Anger, anxiety, depression, relational issues, bullying, OCD, excessive worry, eating disorders, etc. Anything could be rooted in someone’s memory or experience. It would not treat diseases such as cancer, but it can treat the impact and the emotional response around the experience. While it won’t directly change the biological experience in your body, but it can lessen and process distress around these experiences which does in fact create change.


The brain and the body have an amazing capacity and propensity to heal itself. Just as when we get a splinter in our physical body and the body works at pushing the splinter to the surface trying to remove it, the brain works at trying to resolve unprocessed traumatic and adverse life events. This can show up as a “flashback” - involuntary recurrent memory where an individual can have a sudden, usually powerful, re-experiencing of a past experience or elements of a past experience. These flashbacks can be images, emotions or even body sensations. They can be triggered by something we’ve seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelled. It activates the memory network in the brain. The brain is amazing! It is constantly pulling from what we already know and what we’ve already experienced, these are “chains of association” that our brain uses to make sense of new experiences and to store information. The problem is when we have “unprocessed” information or “stuck” experiences, it can feel like we are re-living these events mentally, emotionally or physically.

Sometimes adverse life circumstances can affect the brain and the body causing experiences to get “stuck.” We have to change our lens of how we understand trauma and begin to see the ways certain experiences where we do not feel safe, feel a lack of control or even defectiveness can affect our ability to process information, keeping us looping in unhealthy patterns of thought, behavior, emotions and relationship patterns.

How do these experiences become stuck?

When we have negative experiences that tell us something about ourselves, we begin to believe it. In our “logical” brain we can know these things are not true, but it can feel impossible to “feel” that they are not true. These experiences can be issues of abuse, neglect, bullying, domestic violence, grief/loss, attachment wounds, PTSD, abandonment or other adverse life circumstances such as a car accident or health and medical issues. Our brains have a natural process to work through and recover from difficult and traumatic events. When these experiences become stuck, the Adaptive Information Processing engine of the brain breaks down. Stress responses engage our flight, fight, freeze (submit) response and activate our central nervous system. When the distress from these events remain, this can cause upsetting images, thoughts, emotions and even sensations to remain stuck and can cause feelings of overwhelm resulting in the experience of being stuck in reactive patterns. Our minds can trick us into feeling that we are still experiencing the negative experience, instead of it being something that happened in the past that we’ve moved through. This is something that can happen to anyone, where their increased levels of stress have interfered with their brains ability to process and fully integrate an experience. This interference impedes the natural linkage to other adaptive information we may have about ourselves and our ability to have access to new and positive experiences.

How does EMDR help?

Trauma treatments such as EMDR help the brain and the body to move past these traumatic experiences so that the brain and the body are not still responding as if they are in danger now. It is useful and effective for clients across the life span with children through adulthood. EMDR allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered but the flight, fight or freeze response is resolved.

EMDR therapy integrates elements of many traditional psychological therapies and models and is based off of the Adaptive Information Processing model. This is the inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain. EMDR allows the trauma to be “re-digested” by the brain and the body, linking it to this adaptive information and allowing for healing.

Healing from trauma can feel all but possible for those who have experienced the helplessness that traumatic events can cause, even years later. Healing is possible and we are excited to journey with you!

EMDR is a validated, evidence-based approach. For more information go to www.emdria.org
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