A Beginner’s Guide to EMDR Therapy

About 12 million US adults have or have had PTSD. Sadly, that equates to about 6% of the country’s total population.

But there is good news. Studies show that EMDR therapy is effective at reducing symptoms in people with PTSD. This unique form of therapy can be beneficial for people with trauma, mood issues, anxiety and more.

If you’ve heard of EMDR, you may wonder if it is right for you. That is why we created this complete guide to EMDR therapy for beginners.

Want to know how EMDR works, its potential side effects, and more? Keep reading for answers to the EMDR questions you’re looking for.

What Is EMDR?

EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. It is a modern take on trauma therapy. The goal of trauma therapy and EMDR is to help patients work through fears, traumas, and anxieties.

Before EMDR, doctors and therapists used to force patients to literally face their fears. For example, take a patient who fears clowns. The therapist might have the patient sit through a real-life encounter with a clown.

Over time, exposure therapy desensitized the patient to their fears. The object of fear becomes a neutral stimulus. EMDR works in a similar way, but it goes about treatment using a different method.

EMDR therapy is a similar type of trauma treatment. It teaches patients to reduce the negative feelings or felt charge associated with a specific memory.

The unique aspect of this treatment is the way therapists administer it. Therapists use what is called bi-lateral stimulation to help your brain safely process old trauma so that you no longer have the same trauma response to a stimulus in the present. Your therapist will instruct you to move your eyes back and forth, tap your knees alternately, or listen to sounds through headphones while thinking of the traumatic event(s).

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

By now, you may be thinking: how could eye movements or knee taps help me overcome trauma?

Bilateral stimulation can help decrease the sympathetic nervous system’s (SNS) response to traumatic memories. The SNS is responsible for the fight-or-flight mechanism, which present in symptoms like the following:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Increased breathing rate
  • Slowed digestion
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing

Unfortunately, our bodies do not understand the difference between a real-life stressor and a memory of a stressful event.

When we recall a trauma memory or have a traumatic flashback, our bodies’ SNS may activate. That can make you feel as if the negative event is happening to you all over again.

Performing bilateral movements can help deactivate this response. Your therapist can then guide you to reprocess the stressful memory to feel less emotional. Your logical brain will then start to kick in.

You know when EMDR is effective. That is because you would be able to recall the traumatic event without feeling an activation of your SNS and no longer will have the same response to a trauma trigger.

Who Is a Good Candidate for EMDR?

The most common condition therapists use EMDR to treat is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You have probably heard of PTSD in relation to veterans. However, anyone who has experienced trauma(s) can have PTSD or symptoms of trauma even without a diagnosis.

PTSD is not the only condition therapists use EMDR for. People with anxiety, intense fears (phobias), substance use disorders, and depression also benefit from EMDR treatment.

Other less common conditions EMDR may help with include pain and other emotional challenges. People suffering from grief after a loved one’s death have also been known to benefit from EMDR. We have only scratched the surface here of the types of individuals this technique can help. Talk to a therapist to see if they think EMDR may be right for your unique needs.

Does EMDR Therapy Have Side Effects?

EMDR can have side effects, especially if administered by someone who is not certified to deliver this type of therapy. Someone trained in EMDR will help you to navigate what comes up during the process. Below, we list some of the most common potential side effects of EMDR:

  • Vivid dreams
  • Nightmares
  • Emotional distress

Vivid dreams or nightmares are typically temporary side effects. Your brain will still be processing the traumatic memory after your EMDR therapy session. So, this side effect should go away with time, for most people it is within 24 hours. Emotional distress typically occurs during or directly after a session. A licensed EMDR therapist can help you through these distressing feelings and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

How Much Does EMDR Therapy Cost?

The good news about EMDR therapy is that it usually does not cost any more than a regular therapy session. Although this is a specialized therapy that requires additional time training, and supervision the average cost of one therapy session is about $150. You may also be able to bill your insurance.. Most insurance providers, including Medicare, cover EMDR. Contact your insurance company to find out how much coverage you can expect per session.

If you do not have insurance, you may feel the cost of EMDR therapy is not worth it. Yet, EMDR can work faster and be more effective than other types of talk therapy. If you are determined to feel better, the cost is worth the results.

Searching for ‘EMDR Therapy Near Me’?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of trauma therapy. This technique can help you recover from PTSD, anxiety, and much more. It teaches you to reprocess trauma memories in a healthier way. EMDR is safely done in an online format from the comfort of your own home. Research has shown that EMDR continues to be effective when performed online. If you have questions about how EMDR works online set up a free consultation.

Are you looking for an EMDR provider in your area? Center of Balance Counseling has multiple locations serving Oregon, Washington, Georgia, and Florida. Book an appointment today to find relief from past traumas.

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