During intense trauma, your brain may not completely process all the memories, leading to severe anxiety, flashbacks, and other long-lasting and disabling symptoms. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) performed by Laura Hiebert, LCSW, at Spero Psychiatry and Counseling is a technique proven to quickly and safely help your brain reprocess memories and free you from ongoing trauma-based symptoms. Call the office in Gilbert, Arizona, or request an in-person or telepsychiatry appointment online to learn more about EMDR.

Performed by Juan Murillo Jr. LPC and Laura Hiebert, LCSW

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What is EMDR?

EMDR treats the emotional and behavioral symptoms caused by trauma. When people experience trauma, their brains may not process the information properly, leading to long-lasting symptoms like flashbacks, anger, anxiety, and depression.

EMDR is a structured therapy that reconnects your emotions, memories, and sensations with the trauma, allowing your brain to fully process the experience and store the memories, freeing you from emotional stress.

During EMDR, you think about one aspect of the traumatic event. At the same time, your therapist introduces sounds or visual cues (like tapping or finger movements) that you follow with your eyes, moving your eyes from side to side.

The eye movement distracts your brain and reduces your stress while you recall that part of the trauma. As you remember, your brain can finally deal with and process the experience. Though you still have the memories, they stop triggering adverse emotional and behavioral reactions.

What conditions are treated with EMDR?

EMDR was initially used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Numerous studies have proven the technique to be highly effective for PTSD, and now it’s frequently used to treat other trauma-related conditions.

In addition to PTSD, EMDR may improve the symptoms of:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Psychosis
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders (SUD)
  • Childhood abuse and neglect
  • Phobias

EMDR helps these conditions (and others) when they’re associated with trauma. Many mental health disorders begin with traumatic experiences. For example, depression is often triggered by a major life transition that causes significant trauma.

Most importantly, EMDR doesn’t directly treat SUD (dependence or addiction to alcohol or drugs). But it may prevent relapse during your recovery by eliminating trauma-related memories that make you turn to alcohol or drugs.

What should I expect during EMDR?

EMDR is designed to quickly and effectively deal with traumatic memories in 6-12 sessions or fewer. Your healing progresses through eight stages, with phases three to six focused on the EMDR technique.

The first two phases are devoted to planning your therapy and teaching you coping skills for handling emotional distress during and between EMDR sessions. After EMDR ends, you have two additional sessions to monitor your progress and review your results.

To learn if EMDR can help you, call Spero Psychiatry and Counseling or use online booking to request an appointment today.