How Does EMDR Therapy Work


When disturbing experiences happen, they are stored in the brain with all the sights, sounds, thoughts and feelings that accompany them. When a person is very upset, the brain seems to be unable to process the experience as it would normally. Therefore, the negative thoughts and feelings of the traumatic event get “trapped” in the nervous system. Since the brain cannot process these emotions, the experience and/or their accompanying feelings, are often suppressed from consciousness. However, the distress lives on in the nervous system where it causes disturbances in the normal emotional functioning of the person. This is the reason why some people report experiencing anxiety attacks which come on at random for no apparent reason!


EMDR does two very important things. First, it “unlocks” the negative memories and emotions stored in the nervous system, and second, it helps the brain successfully process the experience.


The therapist works gently with the client, guiding him or her to revisit the traumatic incident. As images and feelings arise, the client’s eye movements are “matched” with the remembered events and then re-directed into particular movements that cause the release of the memories.


When the memory is brought to mind, the feelings are re-experienced in a new way. EMDR makes it possible to gain the self-knowledge and perspective that will enable the client to choose their actions, rather than feeling powerless over their re-actions. This process can be a complex if there are many experiences connected to the negative feelings. The EMDR therapy sessions continue until the traumatic memories and emotions are relieved.