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What You Need to Know About EMDR and How It Works

Our past traumas and PTSD have a tendency to influence our current emotions, feelings about ourselves, and how we react in different situations and relationships. Symptoms of past traumas can present themselves in many different ways, such as depression, anxiety, change in sleep, mood swings, change in appetite, body aches, nightmares and flashbacks, increased substance abuse, and dependence. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that helps us break through those emotional blocks by being aimed toward a trauma-focused approach and has a goal of processing and reducing traumatic memories. EMDR can take multiple sessions and will only begin after you and your trained clinician develop a solid and trusting relationship and discuss the course in treatment. The process will begin with identifying a traumatic memory or event that causes you any type of discomfort or triggers PTSD symptoms.¬†Understanding EMDR and how it works can be incredibly beneficial to a person’s recovery.

How EMDR Works

When EMDR processing begins, you will focus on the thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that come up for you when imagining your traumatic event. While engaging in these thoughts, you will be instructed to follow your clinician’s fingers, which will cause your eyes to move back and forth, from left to right at a rapid speed, just like when we are in REM sleep. EMDR can be an emotional process, but with the work and relationship developed between you and your therapist, you will be prepared with coping skills to manage these thoughts. Between eye movements, you will provide brief reports about what you are noticing, and this alternating process helps you work through and gain a better understanding of these memories. These movements may cause different emotions or memories associated with the trauma to arise and allow you to process them in a safe and supportive environment. The goal of these emotions and feelings is to decrease in intensity until they no longer cause continued pain. Throughout working on these traumas, you will learn to shift your negative beliefs about yourself and the event to positive beliefs, ultimately leaving you to feel empowered and motivated. 

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