4 Reasons Why EMDR Therapy Works for Treating PTSD

4 Reasons Why EMDR Therapy Works for Treating PTSD

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy has become a valued tool for psychotherapists to help clients process adverse life experiences. Many clients develop PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after one or multiple adverse life events. PTSD can significantly interfere with a person’s daily life with nightmares, memories, dissociative episodes, anxiety, depression, and uncomfortable, heightened reactions. EMDR can help people with PTSD recover and live a happier, healthier life.

1. Reprocessing Traumatic Memories

Traumatic memories are responsible for PTSD. Helping a patient reprocess their traumatic memory can help reconfigure the triggering and distressing memory pathways. With EMDR, patients can access their traumatic memory in a controlled environment. Through bilateral stimulation, eye movements, or tactile tapping, patients are guided through their distressing memories and can integrate them into the neurological memory network in a less distressing way.

EMDR is endorsed by the World Health Organization, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and the American Veterans Association as one of the most powerful treatments for PTSD. This is one of the only psychological treatments focusing on reprocessing the memory and helping reset those neurological pathways. Most EMDR sessions last 60-90 minutes, once or twice a week. During these sessions, past traumatic memories are talked about and brought up while simultaneously reducing the intensity of these memories through a variety of EMDR tools.

2. Empowerment

As patients begin to see improvement at home, in the therapist’s office, and in their day-to-day lives, they feel empowered. Patients begin to feel as though they are in control of their traumatic memories and, therefore, are in control of the symptoms associated with their PTSD. Therapy sessions continue to develop self-efficacy and build a sense of control. Finally, patients can return to a healthier and happier life by beginning to feel in control of themselves, their memories, and their symptoms.

3. Dual Attention and New Information

Throughout EMDR treatment, patients focus on dual attention tasks. This means they focus on the traumatic memory and an external stimulus. This external stimulus might be the therapist’s hand movements, a sound cue, a tactile cue or something similar. The dual attention is designed to help the patient distract their neural pathways from the memory. This promotes cognitive flexibility and helps desensitize the patient to the traumatic memory.

New information is also introduced during EDMR therapy. As the patient walks through the guided processing experience with the therapist, new information about the traumatic event is given. This new information can help shift patients’ perceptions and beliefs about the events and themselves. This combination of dual attention and new information while reprocessing the traumatic event leads to patient healing.

4. Neurobiological Changes

Research suggests that EMDR therapy creates neurobiological changes in the brain and this is why it is such an effective treatment for PTSD. It is thought to change areas within the amygdala (fear part of the brain) and hippocampus (memory part of the brain), which are heavily active in PTSD patients. These neurobiological processing changes can help regulate the intense emotional responses and symptoms of PTSD.

Interested in learning more about EMDR and how it can help treat PTSD? Reach out to us to learn more about what you can do with EDMR to relieve your own PTSD symptoms or those of someone you love.