Therapy Methods | EMDR

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

Are you are struggling with painful memories from past trauma? Considering what types of therapy might be most useful? Let me tell you about Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR).

In a nutshell, EMDR aims to help you reprocess memories of past traumatic events that your brain failed to properly process originally. 

The hippocampus is an organ in the brain that stores emotional memory.  When a traumatic experience happens to a person, the logic and reasoning centres of their brain are overwhelmed, so the hippocampus fails to communicate with them effectively to process the memory of that event.  

This can result in a person experiencing severe distress when remembering this trauma, and they may re-live the experience as though it were occurring in the present, because the memory has not been properly stored by the brain as a past event.


EMDR’s purpose is to reprocess traumatic memories by manually involving both the emotion and the logic sides of the brain. Previously they may not have been working together to properly place that memory in the past.


During EMDR, you will be guided to remember the traumatic memories you continue to find distressing by bringing the memories, and the thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations that come with them, into conscious awareness.  So, you must be willing to experience a distressing memory by recalling it in detail. Your therapist should help you come up with a safe place to use if needed.

EMDR often involves following your therapist’s rapidly moving fingers for around 30 seconds. Some therapists tap on your knees or hands instead. Still others place small vibrating discs in your hands or under your thighs.


This produces a distinctive and naturally occurring pattern of electrical activity in the brain; causing the stored trauma memory to quickly change.


During EMDR you will not be asked to change any aspect of the memory, but just to notice the experience.  The next step is to associate a more useful thought to the now more distant trauma memory.  The EMDR process is complete when the new perspective feels true even when the old memory is recalled.  For example, the thoughts "I did the best I could" and that "I was only a child" would help experience disturbing memories in a less distressing way than previously strong feelings of shame, self-blame and guilt. Feeling tired after an EMDR session is common, so schedule in time for rest or something soothing afterward.

EMDR sounds simple, but actually takes over 50 hours of training and supervision to fully train an EMDR therapist.

Our Counselling Centre therapists are trained in EMDR and we will be hosting an advanced EMDR workshop for other counsellors in June.

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