What Is EMDR Therapy?

tomilynEMDR, Therapy, Trauma

What Is EMDR Therapy?

Many of us have painful memories that seem to haunt us throughout the day. These moments from the past creep into our psyche, and they interfere with our moods, our relationships, and even our careers. 

Obviously, we’re big believers in therapy, but we’re especially excited about EMDR therapy, a powerful form of therapy that “rewires” the way our brain accesses those painful memories. 

It’s so effective, our team literally broke down into tears when we first learned about it; we just couldn’t believe we hadn’t been offering Pittsburgh EMDR Therapy as one of our treatment options for clients!

Read on to learn everything you need to know about EMDR therapy, including:

What Is EMDR Therapy?
How Effective Is EMDR Therapy?
What Can EMDR Therapy Treat?
What Happens In An EMDR Therapy Session?
Who Is A Good Candidate for EMDR Therapy?
Case Studies For EMDR Therapy
Book A Pittsburgh EMDR Therapist

What Is EMDR Therapy? 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. This therapy was first developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, a Senior Research Fellow Emeritus at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, in the 1980s, and it works by activating a patient’s entire brain during therapy to process intense emotions, trauma, and memories. 

EMDR is so effective, it’s frequently recommended to treat trauma in the Practice Guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

As the name suggests, the therapy tracks eye movement, and it often incorporates a light bar. In many cases, though, EMDR therapy can be conducted with a patient’s eyes closed, and we frequently incorporate other sensory inputs (like touch) during sessions to activate more of the patient’s brain. 

Under proper guidance from a trained EMDR therapist, EMDR can be transformational, empowering patients to remove painful emotions from past traumas, which can then allow them to move on in their lives unencumbered.

How Effective Is EMDR Therapy? 

Detailed studies on EMDR therapy have proven that this relatively new treatment method is incredibly effective. Some of the most impressive studies have found:

  • PTSD symptoms were eliminated in 84%-90% of single-event trauma victims after only three 90-minute EMDR sessions. (Source)
  • symptoms were reduced or eliminated in 77% of multiple-trauma victims after only six 50-minute EMDR sessions. (Source)
  • PTSD symptoms were eliminated among 77% of combat veterans in 12 EMDR sessions with their therapist. (Source)

These studies are incredibly exciting, and they demonstrate just how effective EMDR therapy can be for individuals suffering with past traumas!

What Can EMDR Therapy Treat?

EMDR is a powerful option for treating trauma and trauma-related disorders, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Phobias
  • Chronic Illness & Medical Issues
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Disorders
  • Dissociative Disorders
  • Eating Disorders
  • Grief & Loss
  • Pain
  • Performance Anxiety
  • Personality Disorders
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 
  • Trauma & Stress-Related Issues
  • Sleep Disturbance
  • Substance Abuse

We’ve seen patients achieve great results in as little as four sessions, which means they’re able to move beyond their traumas and get back to living their lives!

EMDR Therapy can also assist in problems that aren’t linked back to trauma, like social anxiety and writer’s block. Talk to your therapist to see if EMDR therapy could be effective for you!

EMDR Therapy

What Happens In An EMDR Therapy Session? 

A typical EMDR session can be conducted in either our office or on a video call with one of our trained EMDR therapists. Here’s what you can expect in a typical session: 

Step 1: Activate the Brain

EMDR therapy begins by activating multiple sections of the brain through sight, sound, and touch. Under the right conditions, EMDR therapy ignites communications between the following sections:

  • The Amygdala – Located deep inside the brain, the amygdala is responsible for processing emotions like anger, fear, and sadness. It also plays a critical role in controlling aggression and storing memories of events and emotions. 
  • The Hippocampus – Located behind the amygdala, the hippocampus assists with learning and memory retrieval
  • The Prefrontal Cortex – Located at the front of your brain above the eyes, the prefrontal cortex manages behavior and emotion. 

By activating these sections of the brain, we can begin to “rewire” it and the way it responds emotionally to key memories, which is critical to our success in the next step. 

2. Allow The Brain To Process

As you reflect on the distressing thoughts during an EMDR session, you give your brain time to process the event in a safe, controlled environment. Over time, this process can remove the instinctual responses of fight, flight, or freeze. 

Remember: It may take a few sessions to get there, but we’ve seen incredible results with our patients! Jump to our case studies section to learn more!

3. Resume Healing

EMDR therapy will never wipe your painful memories away. Instead, it will remove the pain from them—and remove the negative consequences as well. 

And once you’ve processed the negative memory, you can resume the natural healing process. If depression and anxiety have prevented you from taking important steps to a better life, now is your chance to move forward! 

Steps for EMDR Therapy

Who Is A Good Candidate for EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy can provide permanent relief for nearly anyone, but it is especially useful for individuals with single-case trauma—instances where a single event has become the biggest source of trauma and trauma symptoms in the patient’s life. 

That means EMDR can be ideal for individuals who have experienced:

  • Car Accidents
  • Sexual Assault
  • PTSD
  • Grief
  • Abuse
  • Substance Abuse 
  • Combat

Of course, EMDR therapy isn’t limited to only treating people who’ve experienced these things. Talk to your therapist about their options surrounding EMDR. It could be a viable option on your road to a better, happier life!

Case Studies for EMDR Therapy

We’ve seen EMDR therapy dramatically change the lives of our patients. 

Case Study 1

In one case, we met with a 30-year-old pregnant woman who was especially worried about her child because she herself never felt like she belonged. We used EMDR therapy to identify the memories of isolation that most stood out to her, and we were successfully able to remove the negative emotions associated with those memories. Consequently, she was able to form closer bonds with the people around her and rebuild her self-esteem.

Case Study 2

We’ve seen similar results with an individual who was both a murder-suicide witness and an attempted murder victim. With EMDR therapy, we were able to work through the traumatic memory and separate the painful emotions attached to the event. As a result, the patient was to continue rebuilding their life unencumbered by PTSD. 

Book A Pittsburgh EMDR Therapist

You can determine whether EMDR therapy could be right for you by contacting our office. We have a long list of passionate Pittsburgh EMDR Therapists that includes: