Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) focuses on addressing how your mind processed and stored your trauma. When you experience trauma, your brain may not process the memory as it typically would. Your brain might store the intense emotions and physical feelings you experience during the trauma exactly as you experienced them. EMDR helps your brain to reprocess the trauma and makes the memory manageable.

Treatment

EMDR eases symptoms of PTSD by reducing distress associated with trauma memories. The specifics of what EMDR does to your brain are not well-understood. Researchers are studying this so we can better understand how EMDR works.

What to expect

Your service provider will ask you to remember a difficult memory and the negative thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that go with it. This memory will be known as your “target.” While paying attention to a sound or movement, you will be asked to think about the target. Focusing on the sound or movement keeps you grounded in the present while remembering your trauma from the past. This process is repeated until the stressful feelings connected to your trauma memory decrease.  This helps your brain to re-process the experience into a more manageable memory, which can decrease the symptoms of PTSD.

This is an individual therapy. Each session will involve meeting one-on-one with your service provider.

You will not have to talk about your trauma. You will be asked to think about it instead.

Sessions are 50 to 90 minutes long. On a weekly cadence, EMDR generally takes between four and 12 sessions to complete. Many people feel better after just a few sessions. More sessions could help if you have experienced multiple traumas.

EMDR has no homework.

It might be uncomfortable to focus on trauma-related memories, thoughts or sensations. This discomfort doesn’t last long. Most people find that the benefits outweigh the discomfort.