How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

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EMDR, or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, is a form of therapy used to treat psychological trauma. EMDR therapy is based on the premise that negative experiences can be stored in the brain in a way that prevents them from being processed properly. This can lead to a range of symptoms, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR therapy is thought to work by helping to release these stored memories and allow them to be appropriately processed.

For addiction therapy programs in South Carolina, look no further than Southern Sky Recovery in Bluffton, SC. We offer EMDR therapy as well as numerous other evidence-based treatments for mental health and substance use disorders. Contact us at 843.350.5769 for more information

How Is EMDR Therapy Different?

EMDR involves very little talk, unlike other forms of therapy used in treating mental disorders, and relies mainly on the brain’s innate healing abilities triggered by stimulating both sides of the brain, usually through eye movement.

EMDR typically requires fewer sessions than other forms of mental health therapy. It is trauma-informed therapy intended to resolve trauma that has been left unaddressed. When trauma remains unprocessed in the brain, those memories create ongoing damage and work against the brain’s impulse to heal.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work Within the Brain?

Three parts of the brain are involved in trauma and also in the healing of traumatic memories and experiences. They are:

  • The amygdala—a primitive area within the brain that sounds the alarm when stressful or dangerous events occur
  • The hippocampus—the part of the brain that aids the learning process, the laying down of memories, including memories of both danger and safety
  • The prefrontal cortex—the analytic part of the brain that controls emotion and behavior

Sometimes, we have traumatic experiences, and our brains heal, managing the process without intervention. Typically with trauma, especially repeated trauma, the memory remains, and the stress response does too. The memory of trauma means that the fight, flight, or freeze instinct remains active. Not only do our bodies still feel the response to trauma, but the emotions and images associated with the trauma remain front and center. We cannot move past them. We are stuck inside the trauma.

Moving through the phases of EMDR therapy allows the brain to use its natural healing abilities to reconfigure the traumatic experience so that, though still remembered, it no longer repeatedly sparks the stress response. For this reason, it treats anxiety, panic disorders, depression, grief, and PTSD – all disorders linked to traumatic or highly stressful and activating experiences that provide ongoing triggers through life unless you receive some professional intervention.

The EMDR Therapy Program at Southern Sky Recovery

EMDR focuses on the past, present, and future and takes clients through eight phases. The therapy sessions typically last 50-60 minutes but are sometimes longer, and the number of sessions necessary will depend on the client’s individual needs.

The phases are as follows:

#1 – The therapist takes your history, at which point the two of you decide which traumatic event to focus on.

#2 – Stress reduction involves learning imagery and distress-tolerance techniques to practice between meetings.

#3 – #6 – You pinpoint a particular visual image linked to your traumatic memory, then a negative belief or emotion related to the event, and finally a positive target belief. During these phases, you experience bilateral movement of the eyes in repeated steps until all distress related to the trauma is gone.

#7 and #8 – You will record your process, feelings, and related information in a logbook or diary and move toward a review of all your work to make sure there are no more physical reactions to the memory.

EMDR therapy allows you to move fears, shame, violation, anguish, and other emotions linked with your trauma into memories that are no longer capable of causing you distress.

EMDR Therapy at Southern Sky Recovery in Bluffton, SC

At Southern Sky Recovery, we treat various substance use or mental health disorders through our outpatient programs. Anxiety, PTSD, depression, and co-occurring disorders are just some of the issues we help clients resolve. We have clinicians trained in EMDR therapy who can combine it with talk therapy to offer you a coordinated treatment for your mental health or addiction challenges.

If you have questions about our EMDR therapy program, please reach out at 843.350.5769 or contact us online.

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