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The Transition House Blog

Therapy for trauma and PTSD: What is EMDR?

Posted by Jennifer Dellasanta on Jul 3, 2018 1:14:27 PM

treatment for ptsd what is emdr

Trauma can affect anyone. In fact, over half of Americans have experienced a traumatic event. Men have a 1 in 10 chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after experiencing a traumatic event, and women have a 1 in 5 chance. The good news is PTSD is treatable. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy that is used to treat PTSD. In this blog, we’ll discuss how EMDR works to treat PTSD and trauma.



How does EMDR work?

EMDR works by having you focus on an image that represents your trauma. While looking at the image, you’ll identify the negative thoughts and feelings that the trauma has caused you to believe or feel about yourself. External stimuli such as hand taps or alternating tones played through headphones are then introduced. This way, you are engaged with external stimuli while you process your traumatic experience internally.

With each session, you become more able to look at the image of your trauma and sit with your negative thoughts and feelings. Eventually, a positive thought is introduced to take the place of negative thoughts and feelings.

What should I expect during EMDR?

While there is a protocol for EMDR, each session is tailored to the person receiving treatment. As with any type of treatment, you will first have an assessment so that a therapist can address your specific needs. Then, you will work on developing coping skills. Because trauma can be difficult to face, a healthy set of coping skills will help you throughout your therapy. You’ll also learn how to come down and wrap-up after a session so that you do not leave feeling raw or exposed.

To begin EMDR therapy, you’ll look at an image that reminds you of the traumatic event and think of the negative thoughts you associate with it. As you look at the image, you’ll let whatever reactions you have happen. This could mean thoughts, feelings or sensations in your body. You’ll identify these reactions with your therapist. During this time, external stimuli are applied.

As the sessions progress, you’ll receive direction from your therapist on what you should focus on. You’ll repeat these sessions until the image no longer causes you distress. This is called an emotional shift.

Once your emotions begin to shift and are less intense, a positive belief will be introduced. You’ll continue therapy until the positive belief about the traumatic event begins to feel true.

treatment for ptsd how does emdr work

Can EMDR cure PTSD?

For every 100 people that receive psychotherapy treatment for PTSD, such as EMDR, 53 will no longer have PTSD after three months. Compare this to 9 out of 100 who don’t receive treatment at all. It’s important to note that every person is different. What works for some will not work for others. This is why you should work with a therapist you trust and be honest about what you’re experiencing so that you’re able to get the most benefit out of whatever treatment option you choose.

You can conquer PTSD and get your life back. Our counselors stand ready to help, whenever you’re ready.


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Topics: PTSD

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The Transition House is a behavioral health organization serving the public in Florida and Tennessee.

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