Understanding EMDR Therapy: How It Works in Treating PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. You may experience flashbacks, repeating intrusive memories, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event(s) you have endured.

The Impact of PTSD

PTSD can feel so intense that you may fear that your extreme stress levels will spiral out of control, leading to a breakdown. This fear can keep you up at night, making you feel like a failure or incompetent. You may constantly worry that your inability to manage the symptoms when they arise may hinder your personal and professional growth, preventing you from reaching your full potential. You may worry that you may lose control of your emotions, actions, and thoughts and will no longer recognize yourself. You may feel that if your trauma is not resolved, your PTSD symptoms will harm your loved ones. This anxiety may cause you to isolate yourself from family and friends. It might feel as if there is no end to the intrusive memories you experience. Know that there are various treatments for PTSD, including EMDR.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a compassionate and practical approach to help your mind heal from psychological trauma, much like the body recovers from physical trauma.

Through guided eye movements, similar to the natural process that occurs during dreaming or REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, EMDR therapy helps soften the intensity of these memories, diminishing the emotional and physical distress.

Process of EMDR Therapy for PTSD

EMDR Therapy follows an 8-step process. During the first stage (Planning), your history of experiences and struggles is discussed to create a treatment plan. During the next stage (Preparation), you will learn how EMDR therapy works, how to handle any challenging feelings and pinpoint which specific memories to focus on in therapy. The assessment stage assists the therapist in determining if you are ready. During this stage, you identify the event to reprocess, including images, beliefs, feelings, and sensations.

During the desensitization stage, you’re guided to think about the distressing memory while you do eye movements or other actions that involve both sides of your body. In the installation stage, positive thoughts are introduced for you to associate with the event. The goal is to replace the negative thoughts with the positive ones. Once you’ve worked through the challenging memory and are feeling better about yourself, your therapist will check in with you to see if there’s any tension or discomfort left in your body. This is known as the Body Scan.

During the Closure stage, you are guided through relaxation and self-calming techniques that you’ve learned, ensuring you’re equipped to manage any emotional distress that may arise in the future. At the beginning of each new session, the therapist evaluates your response to previous EMDR sessions and tracks change in your symptoms, emotions, and behaviors over time. This is known as the Reevaluation stage.

The primary aim of every session is to gradually and effectively decrease the intensity of the trauma response exhibited to eliminate it completely. The approach taken by the therapist will be tailored to suit your specific needs and circumstances, focusing on providing a safe and supportive environment to facilitate healing and recovery.

EMDR Therapy in Colorado

Flashbacks, repeating memories, and anxiety caused by traumatic experiences can make it feel like you’re stuck in a loop that is keeping you from living your life.

At McCullough Family Therapy, we offer EMDR therapy Intensives – longer, more concentrated sessions designed to clear stuck memories and beliefs and help you see results faster. EMDR therapy can gently untangle the knots of your past and help you find freedom from what’s holding you back.

We provide therapy that is collaborative, safe and experienced. Our clinicians collaborate to bring unique insights and expertise together. They tailor their approach to you, considering your needs, goals, and personalities, using the modalities that best fit your situation.

When you feel safe, supported, and heard, you will feel comfortable sharing the experiences, history, and situations that brought you to our door.

In creating a safe space for you to explore your thoughts without fear of judgment, we can open the door to real change.

Your path to healing, freedom, and peace starts here.