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What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)?

EMDR is an evidence-based and highly effective therapy intervention that assists with healing from traumatic experiences.

Did you know that there is a difference between a “Big T” trauma and a “Little t” trauma?

Big T traumas are catastrophic and life-threatening incidents such as war, combat, assault, or a natural disaster. If you’ve ever experienced this type of trauma, you know how impactful it can be in your life. Flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety about the trauma can make it difficult to perform basic daily activities. When something reminds you of the trauma, your brain and body react to relive the event all over again.

“Little t” traumas are typically not life-threatening but can affect our sense of self because they are more chronic and pervasive. Examples of “little t” traumas are emotional abuse, bullying or harassment, interpersonal conflict, loss of a significant relationship, and prolonged stress. Most of us have “little t” traumas.Little t” traumas can most certainly lead to feelings of chronic stress in the present.

Just as our bodies are naturally designed to heal, our brains are structured to heal by processing information adaptively. But sometimes, disturbing or incongruent life experiences (also known as Big T or little t traumas) are dysfunctionally stored, causing us to feel “stuck” or reactive in the present. EMDR helps to reprocess the disturbing memory or memories so you can move forward in a more integrated and intentional manner.

How does EMDR work?

EMDR focuses on the problematic memories (the past), the situations that are disturbing (the present), and the skills necessary for the future. EMDR is an eight phase process that begins with a collaborative treatment plan established between the EMDR therapist and client.

The phase most associated with EMDR is desensitization, in which the patient will be asked to focus on a specific disturbing event that is dysfunctionally stored cognitively, emotionally, and/or physiologically. At the same time, the patient will also focus on an external stimulus – most commonly therapist-directed lateral eye movements (bilateral stimulation), but a variety of other stimuli including hand-tapping and audio stimulation can be used, as well. In EMDR therapy, it is not typically necessary to talk in detail about the distressing event, and a course of EMDR treatment may be completed in fewer sessions than traditional talk therapy. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the traumatic experiences that are causing problems and recognize and include resources in the present that are needed for full health.

Who could benefit from EMDR therapy?

EMDR can be used on anyone – from children to adults – to address a wide range of issues, including:

· Anxiety

· Pain

· Sexual abuse

· Panic attacks

· Grief & loss

· Sleep disturbances

· Chronic illness

· Depression

· Personality disorders

· Substance abuse/addiction

· Bipolar disorder

· Eating disorders

· PTSD & other trauma disorders

· Violence & abuse

How can I get more information?

Sovegna has several talented therapists who practice EMDR. They are highly trained in multiple therapeutic modalities that are evidence-based and aligned with long-term recovery, trauma-resolution, and resiliency development. Call our office at (385) 429-9808 to schedule an appointment to see if EMDR is the right therapy for you.

Written by Sovegna's Clinical Director, Katie Quinlan, CMHC, who specializes in EMDR therapy.


EMDRIA. “How does EMDR therapy affect the brain?”

PsychCentral. “What is EMDR Therapy?” August 3, 2021

EMDR Institute, Inc. “What is EMDR?”


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