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  • Tori Nieusma, LCSW

EMDR..... What Is It Good For? (It turns out, a lot of things....)

When we experience difficult life events, those moments can get locked in our brains. Sometimes all of the original thoughts, feelings, sounds, images and sensations that were experienced during the time of the event get “stuck”. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a form of therapy designed to help people heal from the distress related to those past disturbing life events.

EMDR therapy aims to reduce how much we buy into and continue to experience again and again the negative images, feelings, and thoughts while increasing our buy in and experience of positive images, feelings, and thoughts.

EMDR works by stimulating and reprocessing the information from the event(s) so the memories no longer create the same distressing response through a method known as adaptive processing.

Adaptive processing occurs when painful memories are reprocessed through the use of bilateral stimulation- or a rhythmic pattern to the left and right of eye movement, sounds, or feelings and sensations in the body.

Bilateral movement causes the traumatic memory that is looping in the emotional side of the brain to integrate with the cognitive part of the brain, in turn reducing emotional flooding and allowing the prefrontal cortex to re-engage. The work done through the use of bilateral stimulation is believed to be connected to the same biological mechanisms which occur during REM sleep when eyes are rapidly moving and the brain is consolidating and processing information.

The initial experience is still present in memory, but the fight/flight/freeze/fawn response stemming from the original event is processed and resolved.

Because EMDR was originally used for patients dealing with PTSD symptoms, it is often referred to as a trauma therapy. However, it is now used to address any situation or memory that creates a feeling of distress or contributes to a negative thought about oneself or the world.

In this way, EMDR is very much a self-healing therapy. Similar to how the human body is designed to heal itself, brains can do the same.

When a cut occurs on the human body, the body works to heal itself and close the wound. However, if a foreign object enters the wound, healing will be impaired until that object is removed. The brain’s information processing system works similarly. The brain is designed to heal and naturally move towards mental health through consolidation and processing.

But, when we encounter distressing events and the details of the event become stuck, it has the same impact as the foreign object in an open wound. The emotional wound will fester the same way a flesh wound does and will be able to resume healing only when the block is removed.

The processing done in EMDR allows the brain to remove these blocks and engage in emotional self-healing. EMDR allows you as the client to remain in control as your brain uncovers new insights from your own emotional and intellectual processes.

Tori is currently completing training for EMDR and offers EMDR as both a primary and supplementary intervention for clients. To get scheduled, please email

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