Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)

emdr, therapy by bi-alternating sensory stimulation (right-left) which is practiced by eye movements

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based method of psychotherapy developed in the 1980s by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.  Dr. Shapiro discovered this approach to managing traumatic and otherwise disturbing memories as she walked in nature one day and noticed she was able to effectively reduce the negative effects of distressing thoughts by quickly and simultaneously moving her eyes in the same direction.  Systematic research followed, and the exercise (referred to as saccadic eye movement) became the cornerstone of what would come to be known as EMDR. 

In addition to utilizing saccadic eye movement, EMDR practitioners may engage clients in sound therapy and/or bilateral tapping on hands, arms and thighs.  When used individually or in conjunction with one another, these modalities, which the client can practice long after the session has ended, have been shown to provide lasting relief from the debilitating symptoms of past trauma. 

EMDR therapy is rooted in the adaptive information processing (AIP) model, which posits that traumatic memories stored in the brain may become “stuck” in neural pathways.  While everyday memories are comprised of a beginning, middle, and end, memories rooted in trauma must be accessed utilizing appropriate tools in order for the brain to fully process the distressing events and set them free.  For those who struggle to express themselves verbally or have been unable to find success with traditional talk therapy, EMDR may provide the tools necessary to release past trauma and its resultant present suffering.  

EMDR is not hypnosis.  Individuals maintain complete control throughout the session and may stop the process at any time. Recounting (which, for some, may feel like reliving) the traumatic experience(s) in detail is not required to reap the benefits of the practice. The EMDR therapist acts as a knowledgeable guide, supporting the individual and facilitating the session, as the brain clears neural pathways, making way for the release of emotional distress and fostering healing.  While EMDR therapy does not erase the distressing memory, many individuals report a sense of calm after a session. Through desensitization and reprocessing, the traumatic memory loses its powerful emotional charge, ultimately releasing the distress associated with it.

In addition to addressing traumatic events, EMDR therapy is effective in treating depression, anxiety, complex PTSD, addictions, and eating disorders. Consisting of eight phases, it is individually tailored to a client’s unique nature, history, and life experiences.  It is important to note that, before engaging in this type of treatment, it is essential that an individual be able to access the emotional regulation skills necessary to process uncomfortable thoughts and feelings.  If one’s tendency is to become overwhelmed to the point of shutting down when faced with the idea of confronting strong emotions, it may be necessary to learn coping strategies before proceeding with EMDR. A skilled therapist can assist in the preparative process before EMDR treatment begins.

The efficacy of EMDR treatment in processing traumatic memories and other psychological conditions has been extensively discussed and celebrated for over forty years. Individuals seeking relief from unresolved trauma and unnecessary debilitating suffering are encouraged to explore EMDR therapy and discuss it with a reputable mental health professional.

If you are struggling with trauma, anxiety, depression or other post-event challenges, EMDR therapy may hold the key to your mental health.  Consider reaching out to Erin Pallard Therapy. She is a trained EMDR therapist in Palm Beach Gardens and online throughout the State of Florida offering support in healing traumatic memories, helping you move forward. Taking the first steps to address such memories can be overwhelming, but you will maintain control throughout the process, with the EMDR therapist providing necessary coping strategies before proceeding. To get started:

  1. Schedule your initial appointment with Erin Pallard, a trained EMDR therapist in Palm Beach Gardens.
  2. Begin your journey toward healing and improved well-being.
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