Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR)


What is EMDR?

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy approach developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to help people heal from trauma or adversities such as issues of abuse, bullying, grief/loss, attachment wounds, abandonment, PTSD, and many other complex life issues. While EMDR was first known for its effectiveness with combat trauma, it has been shown to be effective in a wide variety of issues including but not limited to performance enhancement, adverse life experience, relationship patterns, and more. EMDR therapy is now validated as an evidence-based approach and included in SAMHSA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) and the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices. In addition, EMDR therapy has been validated by over 20 randomized controlled clinical trials.

EMDR therapy integrates elements of many traditional psychological orientations and is based on the adaptive information processing model (AIP). The AIP model hypothesizes that there is an inherent information processing system in the brain that gets blocked when traumatic or adverse events occur, causing these events to get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Whenever a reminder of the traumatic or adverse event comes up, those pictures, thoughts, feelings, and sensations can continue to be triggered. According to Dr. Shapiro, many emotional problems and disorders are manifestations of these unprocessed trauma memories that are stored in the brain. EMDR therapy works on helping the brain reprocess these traumatic memories, and as a result alleviating the emotional and psychological disorders. 

EMDR therapy has been used with children and adolescents with a wide variety of emotional and psychological problems including PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression, attachment disorders, etc.

How Does EMDR Help?

When we experience traumatic or adverse life events in our lives like abuse, neglect, bullying, divorce, accidents, losses, death, illness, and many other types of negative events our brain creates segmented, unprocessed memories or sets of memories that keep emotions such as anxiety, sadness, panic, anger, or fear stuck along with negative messages and body sensations. We are then reminded of the past by present experiences that bring the stuck memories or messages unbidden into the present because the brain has not effectively stored the memories in the past. We then carry these negative messages, challenging emotions, and body sensations around like unwanted heavy baggage. The unprocessed past creates a filter through which we experience our lives and relationships. This filter typically creates unwanted challenges and issues in life. These are the symptoms that often push a person to seek counseling.

EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation (BLS), like eye movements, to reprocess past memories much like we do during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep cycles. The eye movements activate the left and right hemispheres of the brain by crossing the midline of the body. This process allows individuals to target and reprocess past memories in order to find relief from the negative messages, emotions, and body sensations using the whole brain in its optimal processing. Reprocessing allows us to find relief from the past by relegating negative experiences to the past which allows you to experience freedom in the present.  The goal is to decrease the disturbance of the experience, shift the negative message to a positive one, thus shifting the filter that the person uses as he or she moves through life.


EMDR Applications

The ASPEN HAUS team offers EMDR therapy for many traumatic experiences, adverse life events, and challenges such as:

  • Childhood sexual abuse

  • Past abuse

  • Bullying

  • Past abusive relationships

  • Neglect

  • Phobias and anxieties

  • Perfectionism

  • Grief and loss

  • Sexual dysfunction

  • Negative self-messages

  • Sports performance/Performance enhancement

Our team believes EMDR has the ability to help you find relief and freedom from many difficulties. We believe EMDR is a powerful and comprehensive approach for helping you find relief from negative challenges in order to live in the present with peace.

EMDR for Kids

What is EMDR for Kids?

When bad, sad, or yucky things happen to us, we have many mixed up feelings and thoughts. We do not feel good in our minds, bodies, and hearts, and the brain has a hard time putting all the pieces together of what happened. EMDR can help kids by making those bad feelings and thoughts seem small and allow more space to bring in good thoughts and feelings. Grow-ups call it Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, but kids can call it Eyes Moving to Digest and Recover (Gomez, Anna)!

When kids receive EMDR, they will move their eyes from side to side while they think about the bad, sad, or yucky things that happened. They also might hold buzzers in their hands that vibrate, or their counselor might tap their knees. This helps the brain make sense of what happened and allows the good thoughts and feelings to come in and stay.

Sometimes, yucky feelings might come up during EMDR, and your counselor will be there to help you along the way. You will learn new ways to stay calm and be strong. You and your counselor will team up together to help your brain let the good in!