EMDR and Brain Health

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On your quest to improve your mental health, you’ve likely come across many different treatment forms, from traditional prescription medications to alternative options such as acupuncture. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is another form of treatment that aims to help people reduce the effects of trauma from their past on their mental health.

This painless therapeutic service is still relatively new, with its first clinical trial occurring in 1989. However, research has shown powerful benefits for helping people improve their symptoms of PTSD and other mental health conditions, making it a valuable resource in personalized care plans. Looking closely at how EMDR changes brain health makes it easier to determine if this is the right treatment for you. 

What Is EMDR?


The therapy uses light to stimulate eye movements that alter how the brain processes negative emotions and thought patterns. Focusing on brain health helps to address the primary root of where mental health conditions such as PTSD form.

Although the therapy addresses trauma, it also benefits people with other related mental health conditions. For instance, many people self-medicate with drugs or alcohol to cope with traumatic events. Changing how the brain processes these events can make it easier to manage an addiction.

How Does EMDR Work in the Brain?

Scientists have been working hard to understand how EMDR therapy changes the brain’s reaction to trauma. EMDR therapy works a little differently compared to other forms of care, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, by directly accessing the brain’s information processing system, where memories are stored. Other forms of treatment focus on reshaping a person’s beliefs and behaviors through conscious thought. EDMR can tap into memories you might not consciously bring to the surface. We use light, sound, or gentle trauma-informed tapping to stimulate eye movement.

How Does EMDR Promote Overall Brain Health?

Stimulating the brain’s information processing system has the effect of helping it to make new and stronger neural connections that impact memory retention and retrieval. As your eye movements cause the brain to access specific memories, it grows more capable of processing traumatic events more efficiently and discarding negative experiences that impact your emotions. Once your brain is no longer bogged down by negative memories and fight or flight reactions, it’s better able to send signals to your body to remain calm when you encounter potential triggering situations. This is how EMDR therapy works to create long-lasting changes in your brain.

What Should You Expect During EMDR Treatment?

One of the most significant benefits of EMDR treatment is how easy it is for the participant to receive services without dredging up painful trauma. A typical session lasts around one hour to 90 minutes. You might need three to six sessions for a single trauma incident. People who have experienced more complicated trauma or endured traumatic experiences for a prolonged period will naturally require more sessions to find relief from their symptoms.

During your first few meetings, you’ll talk to your therapist about your previous experiences, and they’ll help you understand what to expect in future sessions. During your EMDR treatment, your therapist will ask for feedback as they use special equipment to stimulate your eye movements. Noticing new thoughts and feelings, you experience during a session helps your brain reprocess your stored memories more effectively.

What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?

Finding a mental health treatment with minimal side effects has long been a primary concern among researchers. Although prescription medications can help, many cause lingering side effects that some people find unacceptable. EMDR therapy leaves no adverse residual effects. Instead, you’ll feel a greater sense of clarity and calmness that lasts between your sessions. Many people find relief within just a few short hours of this form of therapy.

EMDR also allows you to relive less of your trauma than talk therapy, which asks you to work through your emotional pain by discussing intricate details of your experience. You may also like that EMDR requires you to do less homework between sessions since it relies on therapist-guided light entering your eyes. Trying out this therapy is low-risk, and you can use it with other treatment methods as you work with your therapist to find out what works best for your healing.

Finding the right mental health treatment requires more than just trial and error. You also need to be surrounded by a support team that offers the latest strategies for addressing depression, addiction, and other mental health care needs. Our Mind Body Optimization team in Franklin, TN will work with you to help you learn how EMDR treatment can help you overcome trauma and create a personalized care plan that guides you on your journey toward better mental health and overall wellness. Contact us to learn more about our mental health services and how to get started on your journey to whole-body healing and wellness.