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what is emdr?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a powerful and effective therapy used in the treatment of trauma. EMDR therapy incorporates eye movements or other bilateral stimulation (BLS) into a comprehensive approach that processes and releases information trapped in the body, freeing clients from disturbing images and body sensations, unexplained reactivity and debilitating emotions, and restrictive beliefs.


what is Bilateral Stimulation?

Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) refers to a method that activates the brain alternately in each hemisphere (right and left) for more thorough information processing. It closely resembles what happens in the brain naturally during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep as we process information from our daily lives.

what is AF-EMDR?

AF-EMDR (Attachment-Focused Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) was developed by Laurel Parnell, PhD based as a response to some of the deficits of traditional EMDR. Based on her belief that all good therapy is an art, not a technique, AF-EMDR extends the use and benefits of EMDR, BLS, and talk therapy for use with clients who have been typically less responsive to traditional EMDR protocols due to acute or chronic trauma and attachment deficits, particularly based in childhood. With emphasis on the importance of the therapist-client relationship, she states that, “…as we are able to drop into a place of silence and really listen to our own quiet voice and that of our clients, relational healing takes place.”


how does EMDR target Stuckness?

Throughout our lives, we have experiences—good and bad— that have a lasting impact on us. Strong or negative memories can get biologically “trapped” or “frozen” in the brain when they are unable to resolve naturally. These memories are implicit, meaning they are memories we don't know we have. These memories can result in symptoms in the present that may cause difficulty in everyday functioning.


Traditional talk therapy can help us to understand what in the past is connected to what is happening in the present. But it is not enough to have that intellectual or emotional understanding. We make those connections in our mind, but we don’t necessarily feel any better. The body needs to make that connection in it’s own somatic language. The processing that occurs during an EMDR session helps make that connection in a more enduring body/mind way.


how long will I need EMDR treatment?

The number of sessions required depends upon the specific problem we are addressing and the complexity of Client history. Repeated controlled studies have shown that a single event trauma can often be processed within 3 sessions for 80-90% of participants.


In a controlled study, 80% of multiple civilian trauma victims no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after approximately 6 hours of treatment. A study of combat veterans reported that after 12 sessions, 77% no longer met the criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD.


However, as with any treatment modality, results will vary. Every Client experience is unique. 


what happens in an EMDR session?

AF-EMDR therapists follow a modified 8-part EMDR protocol in which we document an extensive history and spend some time "resourcing" ––identifying things, actions, and qualities (real or imagined) that we can draw upon when we get stuck. Working together, we will identify a target or targets that feel "charged" with negative energy. Targets can include anything from a disturbing memory or image, a habit, a particular area of struggle, a persistent thought or feeling, a body sensation, etc. That “target” is then gradually “processed” using BLS, hopefully to a point that the target feels no longer feels activating.


the role of imagination

Imagination is a valuable asset in EMDR processing. In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk writes, "... imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities." Many people who are chronically "stuck" have difficulty imagining anything new, anything different. Part of our success will depend on the ability to tap into imagination.


A few important things to note:

  • It is not necessary to process every disturbing event a Client has ever experienced in order to reach relief and change. Some processing generalizes to other experiences.

  • Not everyone is a good candidate for EMDR. A thorough assessment will help to determine whether it is the right treatment for you.

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