What Can EMDR Help Treat?

May 3, 2024

EMDR Therapy is More Than Trauma Therapy

We provide EMDR therapy in Washington, DC. Is it right for you?

First, what is EMDR therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has gained widespread popularity as an alternative and/or adjunct to traditional talk therapy over the past several decades. EMDR therapy is based on the idea that helping people get emotionally in touch with past painful experiences (as opposed to trying to rationally explain them) can help them process and ultimately heal from those experiences.

EMDR therapy is most commonly associated with the treatment of trauma, but it has many other applications as well. Some of the other conditions that EMDR therapy has shown promise in treating include:

EMDR and Anxiety

Many anxiety treatments are premised on what is known as exposure therapy–the idea that if someone can tolerate an anxiety-provoking stimulus for an extended period of time, their mind will eventually habituate to that stimulus and no longer find it as threatening. Classically, this has involved exposing people to an anxiety-provoking stimulus in their environment, such as having a person with social anxiety attend social gatherings.

EMDR is a form of internal exposure–it helps people get in touch with lived experiences that were threatening, that their mind wants to suppress the memory of. Through EMDR therapy a person can make contact with these memories long enough that they lose their emotional charge, helping a person gain a sense of relief as their mind no longer feels a need to suppress that experience.

EMDR and Depression

Depression typically involves pervasive negative thinking patterns and beliefs about oneself (e.g ‘I am worthless’), which often stem from past distressing experiences, such as habitual hurtful treatment by a caregiver or by peers. When a person accesses these past experiences, their mind actually has a chance to ‘reconsolidate’ those memories–rather than the memory of those past experiences being static and inalterable, the meaning and recollection of those events can be altered each time they are recalled.

EMDR therapy provides a person with a way to make contact with those past experiences and ultimately process them in such a way that they can be understood in ways that feel less hurtful, and which are less apt to foster the negative beliefs that often underlie depression.

EMDR and Anger

Anger management is another area where EMDR therapy can be particularly effective. Often, intense anger issues are linked to past negative experiences that have gone unprocessed and continue to trigger a person in the present, leading to sudden outbursts. EMDR helps individuals access and process these triggers in a safe setting, which can lead to a significant reduction in the frequency and intensity of anger episodes.

EMDR and Grief

Grief and loss can lead to profound emotional distress, impacting an individual’s ability to function. Oftentimes the pain of grief can be so overwhelming that our minds naturally try to avoid being in contact with it. Unfortunately, this tendency to avoid leaves the grief unresolved, making it harder to reconcile ourselves to the loss.

EMDR therapy can help guide a person towards the sadness and other strong emotions that may exist, encouraging them to feel what they need to feel around the loss to honor the relationship and move forward with their life.

Are you looking for EMDR therapy in Washington, DC?

EMDR can be a powerful form of treatment. Click here to learn more about it. Want to talk about how EMDR might be able to assist you? Book a free consultation.