Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy technique used in PTSD recovery therapy in Salt Lake City, Utah, and throughout the nation. In this technique, the patient repeats aloud the story of their trauma while following a therapist’s hand motions back and forth with their eyes.
In order for the brain to heal from trauma, the trauma must be fully processed. If the mind is not allowing the person to think through an experience or is attaching emotion-heavy thoughts, guilt, and shame to an event, the brain cannot fully process the trauma. EMDR allows the client to think through an experience fully while mimicking the REM sleep eye movement pattern, allowing the brain to rewire the traumatic memory and process the event.
With veterans and servicemembers, much of the trauma is combat-related trauma or sexual trauma. In most of these cases, clients will hold an image in their head of the scene, and attach guilt and shame to that image. Potential triggers arise from things that remind them of that image.
David Erwin of MilitaryExperience.org shared his experience with PTSD and what it feels like when something triggers those emotions. He said, “Your palms sweat. Breaths come deeply and rhythmically as your body maximizes oxygen intake. Your heart thumps within a tightened chest as it pushes blood to every limb. Eyes dart and hair stands up. It’s not a hallucination in which you believe that you’re in another place and another time. Rather, you feel like it. Something (sometimes nothing) has elicited a very physical and emotional memory, a frighteningly intense mental space that we first discovered in combat.”
Studies have shown that through EMDR, patients are better able to fully process trauma and reduce symptoms of PTSD like those described above. On our Strong Hope unit here at Salt Lake Behavioral Health, 92% of patients demonstrate statistically meaningful improvement upon discharge from our program, in part due to EMDR. The treatment is a favorite on the military unit. In the video below, the therapist describes how veterans tend to want something more substantial or hands-on than talk therapy to treat their disorder. EMDR, he says, is a selling point for servicemembers that want a more tangible element to their treatment.
On our Strong Hope Military Trauma Units, we’ve seen men and women improve their quality of life by using EMDR to lay traumas to rest.
“Went to the program through Tricare into the Military Male PTSD unit. Got to the unit during night time and felt obviously scared and nervous out of my mind. Never thought a ‘normal guy like me’ would need to be at a place like this. But the thing is the staff, from the receptionist to the doctors, never made me feel crazy. They created an environment perfect for working out the kinks we all get in life…Went for about a month and then re-integrated to a more colorful meaningful life.”
For more information about EMDR or our Strong Hope Units for military service trauma treatment in Salt Lake City, Utah, please call 877-640-0220 for the Military Care Coordinator.