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  • What is EMDR Trauma Therapy? How Can It Help?

    What is EMDR?

    EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) trauma therapy was developed by Florence Shapiro in 1987. In her book, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Basic Principles, Protocols and Procedures, she explains how she discovered using bilateral stimulation, by moving her eyes from right to left, reduced her emotional distress associated with a trauma event.

    How does EMDR work?

    EMDR applies cognitive-behavioral talk therapy techniques with bilateral stimulation (right to left stimulation in the form of listening to tones, tracking the counselor’s fingers, watching a light bar, taping or pulsing hand-held paddles) as well as mindfulness practices to transform the traumatic memories.  It is believed that the bilateral stimulation mimics the effects of REM (rapid eye movement) that happens in our deepest form of sleep each night.

    REM sleep allows us to process the events of the day and push those memories to long term memory storage in our brain.  Unfortunately, during a traumatic event or difficult life experience, this process is incomplete due to our fight, flight or freeze survival response.  The traumatic memory gets “stuck” and run like a virus software in the background of our computers.

    By mimicking the REM process, in a counseling session, through the use of bilateral stimulation, we can help the brain move that memory back to long term memory storage.  After processing a traumatic event with EMDR the image of the worst part of the event becomes very fuzzy and distant for the client.  Clients also report that they feel detached from the emotions associated with the traumatic event.  It’s a pretty amazing way to transform a traumatic image that has been haunting you whether it’s been 10 days or 10 years.

    Whether you have experienced a single incident like a car accident traumatic memory, or you struggled with a history of abuse in some way, EMDR can begin to detach those memories,  untangle them and get them unstuck.

    What do the experts say about EMDR?

    There is a wealth of research behind this type of therapy. So much so that the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs say that EMDR is a good and efficacious way to transform and reprocess trauma.

    Looking for additional information about EMDR?  Check out the EMDR International Association website at

    Interested in counseling in the South Texas area? I offer counseling services for clients in Brownsville, Texas and throughout the Rio Grande Valley.  Need an online counselor?  I also work with online clients who live in the state of Texas. Check out my website for additional information at or send me an email at [email protected].

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