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EMDR -  Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing . . .

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it."

- Helen Keller

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming, also known as EMDR, is a highly effective method of psychotherapy. Developed in 1987 by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro, EMDR was designed to help individuals heal from unprocessed, unresolved trauma in their past.

EMDR is the most researched trauma treatment to date, and is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association and the US Department of Veterans' Affairs and Defense as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition, EMDR is also used by mental health counselors to treat sexual abuse trauma, panic attacks, phobias, eating disorders and addictions, among other conditions.

Emotional Trauma and the Brain

When disturbing experiences occur, they are stored in the brain as a memory, with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompanied the event. These memories become imprinted and stuck, like a big tangle within the brain. This "tangle" is called a “memory network.”  Typically, you can go through the day and not consciously think about the past traumatic event. However, the trauma, accompanied by a negative message about the self, remains tangled in the brain.

Triggers Activates Memories

When a you become upset or triggered by something in your day-to-day life, the "tangle" in the brain comes to life. This causes the negative thoughts and feelings of the original traumatic event to rise to the surface.

It may seem like you are being brought back to the original traumatic event, and feel the same way you did when it occurred. You might even smell the smells and see the things you saw at the time of the trauma.

Perhaps most painfully, negative thought patterns are also activated when the "tangle" comes to life. Even if the you currently have a very successful and happy life, the "tangle's" activation will elicit negative thought patterns like feelings of worthlessness, or believing one is "unlovable" or a "loser."

How Does EMDR Work?

The EMDR technique doesn't erase negative memories, but rather it unlocks the negative memories and emotions that are stored in the brain; think of it as “de-tangling.”  Once the memory is de-tangled, it can be processed and, in a sense, reprogrammed.

What Happens in an EMDR Session?

The EMDR-certified therapist will assist you in identifying the significant traumas that have affected your life.  Each session will start with a “target memory” and negative thoughts and beliefs associated with that memory. The therapist then works with you to stimulate both sides of the brain using techniques like eye movement, rhythmic sounds, or vibrations. This is called "bilateral stimulation." 

When the memory is brought to mind, the feelings are re-experienced in a new way. The power that the "tangle" held over you fades away. EMDR can enable you to gain a new perspective and self-awareness that can helps you choose your actions, rather than feeling powerless as you react to traumatic memories.

AZ Center for Change has several EMDR specialists.  Click here for information on scheduling an appointment for EMDR therapy.

If you would like more information about EMDR, check out

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