Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for trauma. Sometimes traumatic events happen in a person’s life and he/she struggles to find a way to integrate that incident. That event can become an unprocessed memory that gets stored in the nervous system creating symptoms that are uncomfortable. Physical sensations, emotions, thoughts, and images associated with the event can get locked into the brain. Since the experience is locked there, it continues to be triggered whenever a reminder comes up. It can be the basis for a lot of discomfort and sometimes a lot of negative emotions, such as fear and helplessness that can’t seem to be controlled. These are really the emotions connected with the old experience that are being triggered.
EMDR is designed to help a person identify and process these stuck pieces so that the symptoms can decrease and the person can feel more alive and less distressed. EMDR helps facilitate the activation of the brain’s inherent system to process and integrate the information that got stored or stuck. The eye-movements or other bilateral stimulation we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow the mind and body to process the experience. EMDR will not erase the memory; rather the person is able to remember the story without all the emotional charge that was distressing before the treatment. The important thing to remember is that it is the person’s brain that will be doing the healing and he/she is the one in control.
EMDR is a protocol treatment that can be done with adults and children/adolescents. When EMDR is done with children, it is often incorporated with play and art therapy to engage the child and increase their comfort with processing traumatic events.