What is EMDR?

What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing).

EMDR is a psychotherapy tool that lessens the long-term effects of trauma.

After a traumatic event, certain sounds, sights, smells, and words can "trigger" you. 

This means that the event hasn't been fully processed by your brain. 

This is the primary cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

EMDR is a psychotherapy technique intended to reduce these triggers by eliminating their effect on you.

In EMDR, a trained counselor leads you through a series of side-to-side eye movements while recalling a specific traumatic event or traumatic events. 

The goal is to recall the traumatic event until its effect on you is dampened.

It can be used to reduce the psychological impact of a past traumatic event.

It is used for people with trauma, anxiety, and PTSD.

Although the reason that EMDR works to reduce the symptoms of trauma is still unclear, many studies have shown it to be an effective treatment for PTSD, emotional distress, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, addiction, and even lower back pain. 

EMDR Therapists in Colorado

Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Barbra Styles, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 345-2424
Heather Comensky, LPC

Heather Comensky, LPC

Aurora, Colorado
(720) 449-4121
Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Mallory Heise, LPC, LAC

Colorado Springs, Colorado
(719) 602-1342

What is EMDR: For Mental Health

Now that you know what EMDR is, you might be wondering how effective it is.

EMDR has been conditionally approved by the American Psychological Association for PTSD. 

Part of the reason for this conditional approval is that EMDR is still not understood.

Psychologists don't know why it works. 

However, a growing body of research shows that EMDR is very effective.

A 2017 study showed that EMDR was equally as effective in treating panic disorders and panic attacks as traditional therapy methods.

A 2015 study of people with serious depression found that 70% saw improvement in all of their symptoms after EMDR treatment.

EMDR has also been shown to have long-lasting positive effects than traditional therapy methods or medication. 

For example, the participants of this study who did EMDR had fewer serious depressive episodes and depression-related symptoms as long as a full year later.

What is EMDR: For Trauma

In a 2018 study of refugees with PTSD, over 60% of the refugees who underwent EMDR no longer met the qualifications for PTSD. 

Those who underwent EMDR also showed fewer long-term symptoms such as depression or anxiety.

EMDR is still being studied as a treatment for childhood trauma.

It has already been shown to be extremely effective in those who experienced a single traumatic event.

Further studies are needed in people who experienced long-term childhood trauma, but so far EMDR has shown strong promise as a treatment.

In people with psychosis, EMDR has been shown to decrease both delusions, hallucinations, and paranoia.

There are even some emerging studies that show EMDR can lessen the effects of head trauma, brain injuries, and concussions.

What is EMDR: Preparing for Treatment

EMDR needs to be administered by a trained psychiatrist, therapist, or counselor. 

There are self-EMDR techniques that you can try, such as tapping.

However, if you want your EMDR to be as effective as it has been shown that it can be, then you'll need to work with a trained professional.

They will need to understand your history first. 

For example, the traumatic roots of your PTSD, panic attacks, or depression. 

This evaluation will require you to discuss your trauma since this is the event you will be attempting to process.

While you're in the preparation phase, your therapist can assist you in recovering memories through journaling and other exercises.

They may also teach you some coping techniques to help you emotionally deal with the problem. 

These techniques could be things like breathing exercises, art therapy, or meditation.

You will work with your therapist to identify traumatic events, along with the difficult emotions, sensations in your body, intrusive thoughts, and negative beliefs that accompany this traumatic memory.

Don't worry if this part scares you. 

That's a totally natural feeling. 

Your therapist will help you through this process and provide tools to help. 

What is EMDR: Undergoing Treatment

What is EMDR treatment? It is a series of guided eye movements, audio tones, blinking lights, or tapping.

Your therapist should let you try different techniques. 

You can also mix and match them if you want.

When undergoing EMDR, you will focus on a traumatic memory chosen during the preparation process. 

While you're moving your eyes back and forth, you'll let your mind go blank and describe any feelings, thoughts, or emotions that are prompted by the memory.

Typically your therapist will let you verbally describe all of those sensations in order to process and clear the impact and associations with the traumatic memory.

Your therapist will give you a positive belief to assign to the memory, such as "This wasn't my fault." Or, "I deserve love."

These are intended to counteract any negative beliefs about yourself that you have developed around the event.

During your EMDR session, your therapist will also check in with you physically.

They may ask you to do a body scan to eliminate the physical effects of the trauma along with the emotional ones. 

What is EMDR: Potential Side Effects

One of the reasons it's important to do EMDR with someone who is a trained professional is that it could bring up past memories, feelings, and trauma.

Some patients undergoing EMDR have reported heightened dreams, increased sensitivity to emotions and physical sensations, desire to overeat, and lightheadedness.

Typically, these symptoms will lessen as you undergo EMDR treatment. 

You can also speak to your therapist about techniques to ease some of this discomfort.


You will need a trained EMDR professional to get the full benefits of this therapy. 

If you're interested in trying EMDR you can search for a professional in your area.

Or, if you're already seeing a professional you might ask them about EMDR.

It's never inappropriate to ask about their training: this is important for getting the treatment that you want and need. 



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July 17th, 2024

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