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What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that helps people who have suffered from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Life events are stored in our memory. Sometimes when a traumatic event happens to you, your memory of that experience can become locked away inside your brain, often with the same distressing emotions, sensations and thoughts of the original experience. When something happens to you that triggers that experience, you may re-experience the same feelings and sensations in your body, in effect reliving the memory as if it were in the present. For some, the re-experiencing can be mildly distressing though for others the emotional pain can be overwhelming and unbearable.


Often it is assumed that deep emotional pain takes a very long time to overcome. Numerous studies have shown that EMDR therapy assists the mind in healing from psychological trauma, just as your body naturally heals itself from a physical trauma. For example, when you get a splinter, it festers and causes pain. Your body works to push out the foreign object and once it has, the natural healing your body already knows how to do occurs. EMDR therapy works in much the same way, allowing your brain to process information naturally and move toward healing. If our brains are blocked by traumatic events, the emotional wound festers and causes suffering. Remove the block, healing follows. EMDR therapy allows clients to access their brain’s natural healing processes already inside of them.


EMDR has been studied so extensively that the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense recognize it as an effective form of treatment for trauma. Studies have shown that by comparison, EMDR therapy not only works better than Prozac or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in terms of relieving symptoms but also after 12 week follow up, traumatic symptoms did not return. EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, phobias as well as the “everyday” experiences that have led to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and the negative thoughts associated with feeling defective, powerless, or unsafe—any number of issues that bring individuals in for therapy.


Emotionally traumatic wounds are not just “unblocked,” or closed, but the trauma that has festered has been pushed out and healing happens. Clients who successfully conclude EMDR therapy sessions have a sense of empowerment over their past experiences that at one time defeated them. The sensations, emotions, thoughts and images associated with the debilitating event or events are no longer experienced when a person brings the trauma to mind.


Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post-traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:

  • Anxiety and Panic attacks

  • Complicated grief

  • Depression

  • Dissociative disorders

  • Disturbing memories

  • Phobias

  • Pain disorders

  • Performance anxiety

  • Stress reduction

  • Addictions

  • Sexual and/or Physical abuse

  • Body dysmorphic disorders

  • Personality Disorders

More information on EMDR:

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/the-evidence-on-e-m-d-r/?_r=0

http://psychcentral.com/lib/can-you-benefit-from-emdr-therapy//

http://brainworldmagazine.com/how-emdr-therapy-opens-a-window-to-the-brain/

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© 2018 by Ben Culhane, Psy.D. 

Marriage & Couples counseling for adults who are struggling in relationship and love, looking to go deeper in connection and communication located in Newport Beach, California | serving the surrounding irvine, san diego, los angeles, laguna beach, newport beach, mission viejo, rancho santa margarita, costa mesa,and huntington beach