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Karen Kennedy, LPC-S EMDR Therapist

EMDR Questions Answered

Exactly What Is EMDR And What Can I Expect?

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a form of therapy that has been around for 25 years.  It is a mind-body approach to change that comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity.  It can help resolve painful life patterns and is often effective in fewer sessions than traditional talk therapy.  Through EMDR therapy, clients are able to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive.

My clients report that EMDR has helped them successfully resolve issues such as: Anxiety, Grief and Loss, Relationship Patterns, Sexual Abuse, Physical Abuse, Phobias, Excessive Worry, PTSD.


How Does EMDR Work?

Research about how EMDR works is now being done, and it is still unclear exactly how EMDR resolves traumatic stress.  That is partially because we are just beginning to understand exactly how the brain processes intense memories and emotions.  However, a number of neuropsychologists believe that EMDR enables the person undergoing treatment to rapidly access traumatic memories and process them  both emotionally and cognitively which helps the memory to be resolved.

“We believe that EMDR induces a fundamental change in brain circuitry similar to what happens in REM sleep.  This helps the individual integrate and understand the memories within the larger context of his or her life experience.”
Robert Stickgold, Ph.D., Harvard Medical School

There are two key elements to EMDR treatment.  The first is “bilateral stimulation”.  Your brain has a right and left hemisphere and each side of your body is “hard-wired” to a specific side of your brain.  Creating bilateral stimulation of each hemisphere of the brain seems to stimulate what we call the “information processing system”.  The methods that I use for bilateral stimulation are eye movements (you follow my fingers with your eyes), headphones with sounds, or a device that vibrates small paddles that you hold in your hands.  The second element of EMDR is how I prompt and guide your thoughts while we are doing bilateral stimulation.


Is EMDR Only Helpful For Someone Who Has Been Diagnosed With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

EMDR is helpful for a wide range of psychological problems that result from overwhelming life experiences.  For example, a person who had gone through a difficult breakup with a partner may come to realize that she is loveable and no longer be overwhelmed by negative feelings about herself.  A person who is afraid of driving due to a car accident may feel that it is safe to drive again.

EMDR is the best therapy that I have found for changing emotional reactions, negative thought patterns, and feelings.  The end result of EMDR treatment is to reduce and eliminate negative thoughts and feelings, and to increase and strengthen positive thoughts and feelings.  EMDR can enable you to be your best self by letting go of things that no longer serve you.

Please be aware that many are trying to replicate EMDR with something that is similar, but the results that I have found can only come from a trained, licensed therapist using the full eight-step protocol of EMDR.


How Well Researched Is EMDR?

Here are a few quick facts:

  • EMDR is the most researched psychotherapy method for PTSD.
  • EMDR courses are being taught at 30 colleges and universities.  It is part of standard treatment at VA hospitals.
  • EMDR was used extensively to treat survivors in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing, and in New York after 9-11.
  • As of 2002, more than 20 controlled outcome studies of EMDR have been published or presented.  All found EMDR to be superior to the control condition on measurements of PTSD.  Follow-up studies at intervals of 5 years after treatment indicated a high level of maintenance of treatment effects.
  • The American Psychological Association Division of Clinical Psychology’s list of empirically validated treatments lists EMDR.  Only two other methods of treatment are on this list.

My goal for you is to help you achieve the results you want as quickly and easily as possible.  In general, people seem to progress faster with EMDR than with other forms of treatment.  One thing that I really like about EMDR is that people sometimes notice positive results after the first session.  Of course, in therapy there are never any guarantees, but I believe that EMDR is a very effective form of treatment, and I would be happy to discuss how EMDR might help you to heal old wounds and have a more productive and fulfilled life.


For more information about EMDR, please check out the EMDR International Association website: www.emdria.org

Karen's Office