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EMDR is a fantastic therapeutic tool that has changed my life both as a clinician and as a therapy client. Why does EMDR work so well?

I treat my career as a therapist much like I do the rest of my life; I want to know how everything works. I want to know how different therapies work as well as how our human brains react and why. What I have discovered is that there is quite a lot of brain science behind why EMDR is so effective.

It builds off your strengths.

EMDR is an 8 phase model, the second phase being preparation. During preparation your EMDR therapist will do something called resourcing. Many things became clear to me when I learned about resourcing. As a new therapist I was under the assumption, along with much of society, that therapy was focused on the sad, unfortunate things life brings and the job of therapy was to work through it. Acquiring resourcing as a skill made me realize quite the opposite; it is vital to build on our strengths before trying to begin to dredge through the trauma muck. When you build on your strengths, the rest of the work is much easier!

EMDR accesses the core of the issue; how you perceive yourself in relation to others.

EMDR training changed the way I conceptualized the human experience and thus how I approached therapy with my clients. It went beyond what I learned in high school and college, where most of us learn about behaviorism and psycho-sexuality.

EMDR gets at what a person FEELS about themselves and puts language around it that hits home for many people who are ready to go there. Many people easily reflect feeling statements like, I am mad, hurt or upset, but these are just feeling words that almost, but don’t quite, get at the deeper human experience. You may have never thought of experiences in your life leaving you feeling like this: “I am not important,” “I am not heard,” “I am not good enough.”

EMDR opens the door to identifying these deep feelings about the self which leads to a deeper understanding of how your brain wired itself around certain experiences and then takes you down a path of deep healing, rather quickly. Many times myself and my clients have paused in session and said, “wow, I never realized I put that experience together like that… it makes so much sense why I have been so stuck.”

EMDR takes in to account the fact that your brain is a historical organ.

EMDR is used to treat a major, one time trauma or trauma that happened repeatedly over time that, as a result, has had an impact on the brain. Either way, your brain holds on to information rather you are aware of it or not! Most of the time, clients seek therapy out with unexplained anxiety, lack of motivation or depression and the roots of it are things they never thought about; a parent’s divorce, middle school experiences, death of a loved one as a child, subtle family dynamics/expectations.

Our society is very fast pace and promotes the idea that we can jump from one experience to the next, but that is just not how the human brain operates. Really, science proves this. So, when your therapist is taking your history, this information is the most important of all because it is what has shaped how you feel today. Yes, that includes your childhood!

It induces a REM response in the brain.

The REM cycle you enter every night serves the purpose of sorting and filing information from the day for your brain to use for later or toss. Sometimes when things happen in our lives, actual REM sleep on its own just isn’t enough to do the trick and you get stuck. Many people are stuck for years at a time not realizing that they themselves are not broken, it’s just a processing issue.

EMDR mimics REM by utilizing bilateral stimulation (side to side visual or tactile stimulation on opposite sides of the body), this opens up the neural network and enables fast processing and healing. You can expect your therapist to move their hand across your field of vision left to right OR they may use an EMDR light bar or tactile buzzers in order to produce bi-lateral stimulation.

If you are feeling anxious or depressed I encourage you to seek out a brain based therapist. These therapists are usually using EMDR, ART or Somatic Experiencing. Brain based therapies take in to account how your brain systems work with your body and process information.

Please feel free to call Greenway Therapy if you have questions or would like a therapy appointment.

Kristen Craren
Witten By Kristen Craren

Kristen Craren is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Clinical Director at Greenway Therapy . Learn more about her on her BIO page.