Introduction & Defining EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy has emerged as a powerful and innovative method, revolutionizing the way we understand and treat trauma and other emotional distress. This therapeutic approach, initially developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s, has gained widespread recognition for its effectiveness in helping individuals navigate and overcome the lasting impact of distressing experiences.

EMDR therapy operates on the premise that our minds are naturally equipped to process and integrate disturbing memories. However, in cases of trauma, the brain’s natural coping mechanisms may become overwhelmed, leading to the persistence of distressing emotions, images, and sensations. EMDR aims to facilitate the reprocessing of these memories, enabling individuals to adaptively integrate the experiences into their broader life narrative.

In this article, we will go over the foundations, methodology, and transformative potential of EMDR therapy. We will explore the theoretical underpinnings that guide this unique approach, the structured phases that constitute a typical EMDR session, and the diverse range of conditions for which EMDR has demonstrated efficacy. Let’s begin!

Foundations of EMDR Therapy

The Adaptive Information Processing Model (AIP)
At the heart of EMDR lies the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model. This foundational concept posits that the mind has an innate capacity for self-healing and adaptive processing of distressing memories. Traumatic experiences, however, can overwhelm this natural mechanism, leading to the persistence of negative emotions and maladaptive beliefs. EMDR seeks to unlock the brain’s capacity for healing by facilitating the reprocessing of these memories, enabling individuals to integrate them into their overall life narrative.

Bilateral Stimulation
A key element of EMDR’s foundations is bilateral stimulation, typically achieved through guided eye movements, taps, or auditory cues. The back-and-forth motion is thought to mimic the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) phase of sleep, facilitating the brain’s ability to process information. This bilateral stimulation is integral to each phase of EMDR, serving as the catalyst for the transformative journey within.

While EMDR therapy traditionally incorporates guided eye movements, the broader application of back-and-forth movement has gained recognition in its own right. The rhythmic motion associated with walking, whether indoors or outdoors, has been observed to evoke a similar bilateral stimulation effect, offering a more accessible and natural approach for individuals to engage in their healing process. As an interesting study, in recent research, researchers were able to predict an individual’s answers to a depression and anxiety questionnaire by measuring their gait, leading to a proposal that walking may become a valuable diagnostic tool for mental health professionals.

Methodology of EMDR Therapy

The Eight Phases. EMDR therapy unfolds in a structured, eight-phase process, each designed to address specific aspects of trauma and guide individuals toward resolution:

  1. History-Taking and Treatment Planning: The therapist gathers information about the client’s history and identifies target memories for reprocessing.
  2. Preparation: Establishing trust, educating the client about EMDR, and teaching stress-reduction techniques.
  3. Assessment: Identifying and prioritizing target memories, along with associated negative beliefs and physical sensations.
  4. Desensitization: Using bilateral stimulation to facilitate the reprocessing of target memories, reducing emotional charge.
  5. Installation: Promoting positive beliefs to replace negative ones associated with the traumatic memories.
  6. Body Scan: Identifying and addressing any residual physical tension or discomfort.
  7. Closure: Ensuring clients are emotionally stable between sessions and providing self-soothing techniques.
  8. Reevaluation: Assessing progress and addressing any remaining issues.

Targeting Specific Memories
EMDR focuses on specific distressing memories, targeting the root causes of emotional distress. By addressing these memories, individuals can experience a profound shift in their emotional responses and cognitive beliefs, paving the way for adaptive coping mechanisms.

Transformative Potential of EMDR Therapy

Overcoming Psychological Barriers
EMDR therapy has demonstrated remarkable efficacy in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a range of other psychological conditions. By reprocessing traumatic memories, individuals often report a significant reduction in symptoms, enabling them to break free from the shackles of past trauma and move toward a more adaptive and resilient state of mind.

Integration of Positive Beliefs
The installation phase of EMDR focuses on fostering positive beliefs to replace negative ones linked to traumatic experiences. This transformative shift empowers individuals to view themselves and their capabilities in a more positive light, promoting long-term emotional well-being.

Holistic Healing
Beyond its applications for trauma, EMDR therapy has shown promise in addressing a variety of mental health concerns, from anxiety and depression to phobias and performance anxiety. Its holistic approach recognizes the interconnectedness of mind and body, offering a pathway to comprehensive healing.

Self-Study EMDR Resources + Tools

Embarking on a journey of self-discovery and healing can be both empowering and transformative, especially when it comes to addressing the lingering effects of trauma. In our ongoing commitment to supporting your well-being, we are actively delving into various self-administered Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) programs. Our mission is to explore these programs, assess their effectiveness, and ultimately recommend those that show promise in aiding individuals on their path to recovery. Feel free to bookmark this page to stay updated on our findings as we navigate the landscape of self-administered EMDR tools!

Virtual EMDR
Virtual EMDR platforms have gained prominence as accessible and user-friendly tools that bring the benefits of EMDR therapy to individuals in the comfort of their own spaces.

  • Guided Sessions: Virtual platforms often provide guided EMDR sessions, offering structured exercises and prompts to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories.
  • Bilateral Stimulation: These tools incorporate various forms of bilateral stimulation, such as on-screen moving objects or audio cues, to simulate the back-and-forth eye movements used in traditional EMDR therapy.

Mobile Apps
EMDR-focused mobile applications cater to the on-the-go needs of individuals seeking quick access to therapeutic tools.

  • Customizable Sessions: Users can personalize their EMDR experience by selecting specific themes, durations, or focus areas for their sessions.
  • Progress Tracking: Many apps include features for users to track their progress over time, fostering a sense of accomplishment and providing insight into the effectiveness of their self-help journey.

EMDR Tapping Tools
Tapping, or Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), is a complementary method often integrated with EMDR for trauma release.

  • Interactive Sequences: EMDR tapping tools guide users through sequences of tapping on specific acupressure points, believed to release emotional blockages.
  • Emotional Regulation: By combining tapping with EMDR principles, these tools aim to promote emotional regulation and provide users with tangible techniques for self-soothing.

EMDR Equipment: Lightbars
Lightbars offer a dynamic visual stimulus, mimicking the back-and-forth eye movements used in traditional EMDR therapy. This visual stimulation is believed to enhance the brain’s ability to process and reprocess distressing memories. The rhythmic movement of lights helps individuals maintain focus on the traumatic memory being addressed, fostering a deeper and more targeted therapeutic experience.

EMDR Equipment: Tappers
Tappers offer a hands-on approach to bilateral stimulation, providing gentle vibrations or tapping sensations that individuals can feel on alternating sides of their body. Tappers are compact, portable devices that can be easily integrated into the therapeutic process. Individuals can hold them in their hands or place them on different sides of their body during EMDR sessions. Some tappers offer customizable vibration patterns, allowing therapists to adjust the intensity and rhythm of the tactile stimulation based on individual preferences and therapeutic goals!


More Resources

Resources From Dr. Brooke Stuart / Let Go & Grow®

  • For more holistic resources, sign up for our Free Let Go & Grow® Membership, where you will receive instant access to the heart based practice, a simple 3 min. meditation, a wellness workshop designed to optimize mental health & well-being, and so much more.
  • For Let Go & Grow Publishing House books including the LG&G Holistic Guide Book, LG&G Journal, and the children’s book series Let’s Grow With Zo, check here.
  • For more information, support and a tried and true springboard that can help you address the fundamentals and unlock your power to heal, make sure to schedule a free holistic consultation and check out our Let Go & Grow® Mind Body Reset, a 6 week reset program. To learn more about holistic healthcare and working with Dr. Brooke in private practice, check here.