Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic treatment developed to reduce or resolve painful memory recurrences resulting from traumatic events. EMDR was developed in 1989 by Francine Shapiro and is now well-recognized as an effective treatment for PTSD.

EMDR theory suggests that traumatic memories are inadequately processed and stored in an isolated memory network in the brain. These memories can impact or overwhelm a person’s normal coping mechanisms. The goal of EMDR is to help reprocess these memories and support the individual to find an adaptive resolution, thereby reducing emotional distress, negative beliefs, and physiological activation. EMDR therapists use a variety of external stimuli during treatment, including lateral eye movements, hand, and audio stimulation. These external stimuli are used as points of focus while the individual recounts and reprocesses painful emotional events from the past. EMDR therapy works to help individuals form new and less painful associations with traumatic memories by accessing the traumatic memory network and enhancing the information. EMDR focuses on three elements: the past, the present, and the future. EMDR is an eight-phase treatment approach. Phase one includes taking the individual’s history and assessing readiness for treatment. Phase two focuses on an assessment of skills to manage emotional distress. During this phase, the EMDR therapist may teach specific coping techniques, including the use of imagery or stress-reduction skills. Phases three through six involve targeting and processing specific painful memories or experiences. During these phases, individuals identify the visual image of the memory, the negative self-belief, and related emotions or body sensations. Phase seven offers closure and an opportunity to review coping skills. Phase eight is the beginning of the next session and includes a review of progress.

At Cottonwood, EMDR is offered to individuals who struggle with symptoms of PTSD and unresolved trauma. EMDR is provided in individual sessions and is used in conjunction with other trauma treatment interventions. EMDR may focus on distress reduction, skill building, or resource development. An introduction to EMDR group is offered for patients who want to learn more about these resources before beginning EMDR sessions.

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