What does EMDR do for Trauma Memory?

Let's talk about EMDR.

Eye Movement Desentization and Reprocessing (EMDR) was developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD while she was out walking off an upsetting incident as a psychology student in 1987.

Here's what she had to say about that moment: 

"I noticed that disturbing thoughts I had been having had disappeared and when I brought them back they didn’t have the same 'charge,'" Shapiro said. "I was puzzled since I hadn’t done anything deliberately to deal with them. So I started paying careful attention and noticed that when that kind of thought came up, my eyes started moving rapidly in a certain way and the thoughts shifted out of consciousness. When I brought them back they were less bothersome."

She started exeperimenting and developing other procedures to make the process consistent, and EMDR took off.

This study references early EMDR studies used to treat Vietnam veterans with persistent PTSD, and later with veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once-a-week EMDR for these patients helped them report improvement in a short amount of time, and hold those results even a year later. 

So, how does EMDR work? 

During an EMDR session, patients make eye movements back-and-forth during trauma recall, with the therapist helping maintain a feeling of safety while they remember the distressing memory. I read a 2012 study that reported that EDMR reduces the subjective vividness of the memories, making them easier to handle. In time, the memories fade, or at least the emotion attached to the memory fades. 

I think EMDR is a wonderful practice to help people process PTSD as a result of combat, traumatic birth experiences, sexual assault, physical and emotional abuse, etc. It can truly help heal wounds. 

Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu H. Woodland, PMHCNS-BC, APRN Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Hope Mental Health, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.  Ms. Woodland with her background in nursing, prefers a holistic and integrative approach to mental health care that addresses the mind and body together. While Ms. Woodland provides medication management services in all her patients, she believes in long-lasting solutions that include a number of psychotherapies, namely cognitive behavioral therapy, exposure and response prevention therapy, attention to lifestyle, evidenced based alternative psychiatric care and spirituality. If you’d like to gain control over your mental health issues, call Hope Mental Health at 208-918-0958, or use the online scheduling tool to set up an initial consultation.

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