What Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy?

What Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is a unique, non-traditional form of integrative psychotherapy designed to help clients grieve, work through and clear out negative thoughts and feelings about themselves that result from long buried, traumatic experiences such as tragic accidents, loss of a loved one or much earlier birth trauma, loss of a beloved caretaker, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Focusing on the present anxieties and concerns of a client, EMDR supports and encourages the client’s thinking brain to be less afraid of and observe painful experiences long buried in the feeling parts of the brain. This process is what Freud described many years ago as becoming stronger, more resilient and less afraid of an enemy by viewing it up close in the sunlight rather than in the dark where it can suddenly grab hold of us and limit our potential to live life more fully.  

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

We’ve long known that while sleeping, humans dream or process their emotional experiences in a sleep pattern that alternates between regular sleep and rapid eye movement or REM sleep. EMDR approximates REM sleep but while the client is fully awake. Eye movements, tapping or sounds are used to stimulate the thinking and observing parts of the brain to get closer to and observe what’s being experienced in the feeling parts of the brain. EMDR is like dreaming only the client is fully awake and thus potentially able to alter, reshape and clear out the negative aspects or painful parts of what he’s feeling.

It should be emphasized that EMDR is not hypnosis because the client is always conscious and in complete control during processing. However, a good therapist will encourage a client to stretch his window of tolerance and stay with painful feelings, so they’ll eventually become less frightening. Also, it’s important to understand that a client doesn’t have to recall in words, as in a biography, very early traumatic experiences stored in the feeling parts of the brain (the limbic region, amygdala, and hippocampus). These feelings are always impossible to express in words. In the first two years of life, children don’t have a fully developed pre-frontal cortex, a thinking brain that enables them to reshape, alter and process feelings. Neuroscientists and Sensorimotor therapists call these implicit or procedural memories because they can hardly ever be expressed in words, are always stored in the feeling parts of the brain and expressed in various parts of the body. A good psychotherapist will teach his client’s mindfulness, i.e., encourage them to view their bodies as a gateway to their unconscious feelings from very early, pre-cognitive life.

EMDR Therapy Sessions

An EMDR session includes the following which is the heart of The EMDR Standard Protocol:

  • What do you wish to work on today? (Trigger or incident)
  • What does it say about you that this happened? Does it say there’s something wrong with you?
  • Looking at yourself in the here and now, what would you like to say or believe about yourself? Are you more than that? What else?
  • When you think of what happened (Trigger or Incident that occurred), how true do what you’d like to believe about yourself feel, right now in the present, on a scale of 1 to 7?
  • Now when you think back to what happened (Trigger or Incident that occurred), what’s the feeling? What emotions come up now?
  • How big is that? How disturbing does it feel to you on a scale of 0 to 10?
  • Where do you feel it in your body? Feel it there, right now. Go with that.

The client is then encouraged to process these feelings with eye movements, tapping or sounds using earphones until negative thoughts and feelings are reshaped, altered and cleared out and the client is able to integrate new insights and perspectives in daily life.

Contact an Experienced EMDR Therapist Today

If you’re having trouble overcoming memories of past trauma or wish to diminish painful, negative feelings triggered by particular memories or flashbacks, call André Moore today. André specializes in Emotionally Focused Therapy, Brief Solution Focused Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Collaborative Language Therapy, E.M.D.R. (Eye Movement  Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Sensorimotor Psychotherapy. So give him a call today at 212-673-4618 for a consultation about how EMDR can be of use to you.


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