Tuesday Therapy Notes: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

There are a lot of different types of therapy out there. And some therapies are better suited to certain conditions. The purpose of Tuesday Therapy Notes is to introduce everyone to some of these different therapies and discuss some of the issues common to therapy. Today, we are talking about eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR)

EMDR is a type of therapy that is useful in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The way EMDR works is by taking negative emotional reactions to traumatic or difficult memories and replacing them with less-emotional reactions. Ideally, the therapy may even be able to replace it with positive reactions.

The way that EMDR works is by performing repetitive back and forth eye movements for 20 or 30 seconds while recalling the traumatic memory. Research has shown that this approach can change the emotional reaction individuals have to the memory.

Yet just because I’ve explained the process, I haven’t explained how it works or why. Well, the “dual stimulation” done by performing these back and forth eye movements stimulates the brain. And when the patient recalls a specific traumatic memory, it can change the emotional reaction.

And while the research shows that there are positive results behind EMDR therapy, it is not clear whether the benefit is from the exposure involved in the treatment or is the eye movement is key to the treatment.

This brings up an important point, which is that while there is a lot of evidence demonstrating the positive results of not just EMDR, but therapy in general, it is not always clear why these therapies work. In reality, this is in part because there is still so much about how the brain works or how mental illnesses work.

And while I typically rely on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), not EMDR, I can attest to the fact that therapy does work. And even if researchers don’t necessarily understand why it works, the fact of the matter is that it is good that it does work. I don’t necessarily care that we don’t have all the answers about why therapy works, I just care that it does.

And hopefully, if you have questions about therapy, this series will help you find one that works for you.

And as always, thanks for reading.

Source: NAMI – Psychotherapy

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