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The Science Behind EMDR: How It Works to Address Trauma


Trauma can have a profound impact on an individual's mental and emotional health. For many, traditional talk therapy may not be enough to help them process their traumatic experiences. Fortunately, there are alternative forms of psychotherapy that can be highly effective in treating trauma. One such approach is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s to help people process and move past traumatic experiences. The goal of EMDR is to help the brain reprocess traumatic memories that may have become "stuck" and to reduce the intensity of the associated negative emotions.

How EMDR Works

EMDR has been shown to be highly effective in treating trauma-related disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. It is thought to work by helping the individual reprocess the traumatic memory in a way that allows them to move past it.

EMDR therapy typically involves a series of phases, including an initial assessment, preparation, the EMDR session, and reevaluation. During the EMDR session, the individual focuses on a specific traumatic memory while participating in bilateral stimulation, which may include eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory tones. The bilateral stimulation is thought to help the individual process the traumatic memory and reprogram the brain's response to it.

One theory is that EMDR helps the individual access and process the memory in a way that mimics the brain's natural processing of memories during REM sleep. This may help the individual integrate the traumatic experience into their overall life story, rather than being stuck in the trauma.

Another theory is that the bilateral stimulation used in EMDR may help desensitize the individual to the traumatic memory, reducing the emotional charge associated with it.

Why is EMDR Effective?

One reason EMDR is effective is that it engages both sides of the brain to help process the traumatic memory. The bilateral stimulation used in EMDR is thought to activate the same mechanisms that the brain uses during REM sleep to process and consolidate memories. This can help reduce the emotional charge associated with the traumatic memory, making it easier to process and integrate into the individual's overall life story.

EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of trauma-related symptoms, including PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Studies have also found that EMDR may be as effective as other evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

How to Get Started with EMDR

If you are interested in exploring EMDR as a treatment option for trauma-related symptoms, the first step is to find a qualified EMDR therapist. Look for a therapist who is trained and certified in EMDR and has experience working with trauma survivors. Compass of Hope PLLC specializes in EMDR and works closely with patients to overcome trauma through EMDR treatment.

During your initial consultation, the therapist will assess your history and symptoms to determine whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment option for you. If it is, they will work with you to develop a treatment plan that meets your specific needs. You can schedule a consultation appointment with us here, or contact us to discuss how EMDR could release you from the burden of reliving your trauma.

In addition to traditional in-person EMDR sessions, there are also virtual options available for those who may not have access to a qualified EMDR therapist in their area. It is important to note, however, that virtual sessions may not be as effective as in-person sessions for some individuals.


Trauma can have a lasting impact on an individual's mental and emotional health, but it is possible to heal and move forward. EMDR is a powerful tool for treating trauma-related symptoms and helping individuals reprocess traumatic experiences in a way that allows them to move past them. If you are struggling with the effects of trauma, consider reaching out to a qualified EMDR therapist to explore this treatment option.

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