EMDR for PTSD: How It Works, and What to Expect

Sep 07, 2023
EMDR for PTSD: How It Works, and What to Expect
If post-traumatic stress disorder is keeping you from living your life, it might be time to consider therapy, particularly EMDR.

As we come to understand how the brain processes and stores memories, treatment for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder becomes easier and more effective. If you’re struggling to overcome trauma in your past, EMDR can help improve how you react to triggers so you can close the wound and begin healing. 

At P.S. Psychiatry in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Dr. Mitchell Kho and his team compassionately treat patients with PTSD using safe, effective EMDR therapy.

An overview of EMDR

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR, is a type of therapy that focuses on changing how your mind processes trauma. It uses specific eye movements and guided instructions to help you access your memories and repair how you react to them. 

While considered relatively new by many who aren’t familiar with the process, EMDR has been around for over thirty years. Its effectiveness has led many psychologists to recommend it for other conditions. 

How EMDR works

EMDR is built upon the Adaptive Information Processing model, which states that unprocessed memories can cause reactions as if they were still currently happening. This means that when you suffer a triggering flashback, you feel emotions, thoughts, and sensations as if you were going through your trauma again. 

Re-processing these memories requires several stages, beginning with an assessment of the patient, their history, and the target memories. Target memories are the sources of trauma that you want to react less strongly to. During your assessment, your therapist will ask about what triggers your traumatic memories, how real your flashbacks feel, and how disturbing they are. 

During EMDR, you do not have to explain your trauma in detail or relive it. Instead, you’ll be able to engage with the memory while following standardized procedures that keep you focused and calm. This continues until you feel less distressed, desensitizing you to your trigger. 

Finally, this positive response is strengthened. Your therapist will perform a body check with you to make sure you don’t feel physically anxious or upset, and the session ends. As new memories or triggers emerge, your therapist will work with you to help you reprocess them. 

What to expect during EMDR therapy

For those struggling with PTSD, types of therapy where patients must confront their trauma might be counterintuitive to healing. Not all traumatic events are meant to be unpacked and re-lived, and sometimes learning to overcome triggers and flashbacks is more productive and comfortable. 

If you’ve been avoiding treatment for PTSD due to discomfort or fear, EMDR might be the ideal solution for you. It can also be combined with other forms of therapy to help you heal faster and more effectively. 

At P.S Psychiatry, we offer a range of other treatments that can be used in tandem with EMDR, including: 

  • Exposure therapy 
  • Cognitive therapy 
  • Medication management 
  • Other forms of psychotherapy

If you require medication for your PTSD, we also offer genetic testing to help you find a prescription that works for you. 

To learn more about EMDR and other treatment options, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kho, call 267-884-1824 or request an appointment online today. We see patients in our Doylestown office or Dr. Kho can meet with you using our telehealth service.