Maybe you’ve heard a bit about the upsides of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Yet the entire process is so different from traditional talk therapy that you can barely picture what a session might be like. The idea of finally overcoming your past trauma through bilateral stimulation rather than opening up in talk therapy sounds intriguing. However, you just can’t wrap your head around how it actually “works.”

If you’ve never gone through an EMDR session before, it’s perfectly normal to feel like the whole concept is a little confusing. This doesn’t mean it won’t suit you! On the contrary, it can be helpful to gain an understanding of how EMDR actually works within your brain prior to scheduling a session. Here’s how EMDR can help you heal from trauma.

EMDR Allows You to Properly “Process” Traumatic Memories

In the context of EMDR, “processing” trauma does not refer to “analyzing” your memories or “getting over” trauma. Instead, it refers to storing them in the appropriate parts of your brain. After a traumatic event, your memories may not be stored as usual in your brain.

Instead, you feel like you’re constantly re-experiencing them in the present. EMDR helps you establish a safe, psychological state so that you can finally store these traumatic memories properly. This will help you avoid being triggered in the future. Essentially, through EMDR, your brain can contextualize these traumatic experiences as past events, giving you a sense of emotional resolution.

Calming Your Brain’s “Fear Circuits”

If you feel like you’re experiencing your trauma over and over again, your brain’s “fear circuits” are likely overactive. Each time something makes you recall your trauma, your fear circuits shift into overdrive. But during EMDR sessions, the bilateral stimulation actually calms your fear circuits. This frees up your mind to focus on properly storing your memories, rather than prompting you to react as if you’re facing the same trauma over again.

Stimulates Both Hemispheres of Your Brain

In EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation will activate both the right and left hemispheres of your brain. This means that both hemispheres will work in tandem to store your traumatic memories. The functioning of one hemisphere won’t interfere with the other. This is what allows you to associate new, positive beliefs with your past traumatic memories during EMDR.

Activates Key Parts of the Brain for Emotional Regulation

EMDR engages key parts of your brain that serve to help regulate your emotions. This includes your prefrontal cortex, which governs future planning and impulse control, your orbitofrontal cortex, which influences your emotions and the way you socially interact with others, and your anterior cortex, which also affects your impulse control capabilities and sense of judgment. In EMDR, all of these parts of the brain are activated throughout therapy sessions, helping you to strengthen your impulse control skills and your ability to accurately judge situations.

Avoid Retraumatizing

Finally, one of the major draws of EMDR is the fact that you will not have to delve into the nitty-gritty details of a traumatic event for a therapist. While you will personally recall the physical sensations associated with this event during sessions, you don’t have to approach EMDR like talk therapy. While many people benefit from the reflective, analytical nature of talk therapy, this can be a discouraging factor for people who would rather not relive past trauma out loud. EMDR provides a welcome alternative.

Are you curious about the benefits of EMDR? Talking to a counselor can help you figure out if this therapeutic approach is the right fit for you. Reach us to us to learn more about our EMDR therapy services.


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