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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing

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Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a method of psychotherapy that has proven effective in helping many patients resolve lingering aftereffects of difficult or traumatic experiences. The treatment is useful in relieving emotional distress, in decreasing physiological arousal, and in developing more functional beliefs about the self. As research on this method of therapy progresses at many academic institutions across the country, more and more uses for EMDR are being developed.


Integrating Elements of a Memory

Although the exact mechanism for how EMDR works is unclear, it is an information processing method that helps integrate elements of difficult experiences that are stored in memory. It appears that for most people, the sights, sounds, smells and visual experiences of trauma are stored in separate areas of the brain. EMDR works relatively quickly for some people and allows them to remember a difficult experience without feeling the actual fear and anxiety of the original incident.


EMDR at National Jewish Health

Depending on the situation that led to the original symptoms, EMDR may require one or many sessions. The treatment is non-intrusive. The client focuses on the problematic experiences with the associated images, beliefs, feelings and body sensations, while moving the eyes back and forth in a systematic way, as directed by the EMDR trained therapist. Some therapists use alternate forms of brain stimulation, such as tapping or sound. The client then often experiences a "connect the dots" type of picture that not only makes emotional patterns more clear and understandable but also alters negative beliefs and provides emotional release.

Several therapists in the Division of Psychosocial Medicine are trained in EMDR and use it in their practices to help patients cope with their medical difficulties as well as with other life problems.


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