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What is EMDR?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. What this really means is that it is a type of therapy that processes and heals traumatic memories.

When a traumatic event happens to a person, their brains and bodies change physiologically. These changes then cause the person to feel constantly on high alert, to avoid anything that reminds them of the painful event, and even often feel like they are re-experiencing the event as if it just happened in the present.

When beginning EMDR, trauma processing does not begin until significant internal resourcing has taken place, which is called “phase two” of EMDR. Trauma processing can bring up many painful memories and emotions that can destabilize a person unless they have specific skills dedicated to containing and soothing emotions and memories, such as those learned in DBT distress tolerance. With traumas that are “little t” traumas, such as a single car accident or embarrassing school speech, the trauma can be processed quickly and easily, possibly even within a few sessions. When working with someone with “Big T” traumas, such as significant childhood sexual abuse, the “resourcing” phase of EMDR can last for months. Each person and situation is different.

Once trauma is cleared through EMDR, patients note a significant decrease in hypersensitivity, the ability to read articles and books pertaining to the subject of their trauma, and an increase in pleasant emotions. EMDR is deep, incredible work that must be done with someone who the patient trusts to support and keep the patient safe.