EMDR: A Brief Explanation of the Theory Behind It's Effectiveness

When a traumatic or overwhelming event occurs the information gets stored (locked) in the brain.  This information often becomes activated by experiences or events occurring presently and results in the feelings that come with it, such as: helplessness, panic, fear, paralysis, and so on.  For many this feels like being stuck in a repetitive pattern that seems outside of their control.  

It can be helpful to know that the thoughts, feelings, behaviors and so forth that get kicked up out of nowhere are a result of faulty information that has been stored in your brain stemming from an unresolved and overwhelming experience(s) in your past.  It appears to be the “left overs” of what was unresolved at the time.  

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a therapy that allows you to reengage the originating event through the guidance of a skilled-therapist, use of eye movements, and mindful awareness to resolve what was stuck at the time.  It is a way of metabolizing the “left overs.”  Once the the event is fully resolved the symptoms (thoughts, feelings, behaviors, etc.) are no longer necessary, resulting in elimination of the problem for which the individual sought help for, initially.

Eye movements appear to facilitate the unlocking of the dysfunctionally stored information.  Some literature suggest that they are also helpful in fragmenting the original experience so the individual is not overwhelmed (retraumatized in therapy) by the original experience.  It breaks the information down into smaller bite sizes making it more possible to resolve it and change it without overwhelming the person again. 

In some ways this is similar to the processing that occurs during REM sleep.  In our sleep we are processing the days events and resolving thing (almost) as they are happening.  After a rough day, have you ever had a friend suggest something like, "Sleep on it.  I bet you'll feel better about in the morning."  And when you took their advice you find it worked?  That is, you felt better about what happened and maybe even had a better idea of how to work through it?  Well, our brains were made to help us internally resolve stressful events and transform it into a helpful narrative so that we know what do about it.  EMDR acts in a similar way by accelerating the brain's ability to resolve difficult, overwhelming and traumatic events.

At Resilient Life Therapy in Minnetonka, MN - using EMDR -we treat: PTSD, panic, performance anxiety, generalized anxiety, pervasive depression, unexplained fear, avoidance behaviors, and other symptoms and behaviors leaving people feeling stuck and ineffective.  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us here.  

Information adapted from Francine Shapiro’s book, “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures”, Third Edition, Copyright 2018, pp. 115-116.

We are located at 13911 Ridgedale Drive, Suite 320, Minnetonka, MN 55305

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