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Does EMDR Work?

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Francine Shapiro invented eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy (EMDR) in the late 1980s, and psychiatrists and patients alike were excited by the prospect of a decrease in the number of sessions needed to cure post-traumatic stress disorder, addictions and phobias.

While EMDR is still thought of as relatively new (and sometimes odd), there are many practitioners today who use it with many of not all of their clients because of its awesome impact. It is now also commonly used to work through depression, anxiety, and even eating disorders. Many times, these conditions have their roots in childhood, through negative events or messages we received from our caregivers, family, friends, and social media. For example, if you have the persistent need to be perfect, maybe your parent always criticized you even when you thought you did well.

In EMDR, the therapist creates “bilateral stimulation” (across the body) through eye movements back and forth, audio tones that go from ear to ear, or physical tapping back and forth on the knees or shoulders. These bilateral stimulations are said to loosen knots in one’s memory and allow negative thoughts and memories to be favorably reprocessed with minimal guidance from the therapist. Some have thought the process is similar to REM sleep, where eye movements accompany the processing of daytime memories. Others speculated that the left-right alternation of attention brings brain hemispheres into greater balance. But no one really knows for sure why it works – they just know it works for many clients.

At Bloom & Thrive, we have practitioners (Ambur and Meg) who are trained in EMDR and have seen the immense benefit it can have for their clients. If you’re suffering, EMDR may be worth a shot. You’ll probably know after just one session whether it will work for you.

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