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How to Heal Hurts and Become Unstuck - Healing through EMDR

I'm very excited to tell you about a therapeutic approach I regularly use in my counseling practice. It is called EMDR (Eye-Movement Desensitization Reprocessing). Through EMDR I have seen clients experience relief from past upsetting events and find freedom from patterns of unhelpful thinking more fully (and sometimes more quickly) than other methods of therapy have previously offered. Many of my clients, in fact, come to me after years of therapy and still feel stuck. They are still hurting, and are often discouraged. But, EMDR makes a difference!

One reason I think this treatment is so effective is because it acknowledges that we all have core memories that help shape the way we experience, see, and respond to the world around us. Another reason I LOVE Inside Out (Inside Out post here) is because of its use of core memories. Take a moment and let Joy teach you about core memories and how they work.

Just like Riley, our core memories serve to influence our belief systems. Through our life experiences we develop beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. And, because we live in a broken world our thought patterns often tend toward the negative. In fact, often even when we know that these beliefs are not rooted in Truth we still believe them. That internal dialogue is just too powerful!

I'm a bad person.

I'm a disappointment.

I'm not good enough.

I have to please others.

I should have ... done something ... known better.

I cannot trust.

It's not ok to feel (show) my emotions.

I'm not in control.

I'm a failure.

I have to please others or be perfect.

I'm not safe.

These thought patterns (called negative cognitions) become the lens through which we filter new experiences. In doing so, new experiences serve to reinforce the very beliefs that aren't working for us. We think, "See! I'm not good enough." Or, "I failed again." Or, "Its true. People really can't be trusted. I'm hurt again."

These thought patterns keep us stuck. They keep us hurting, angry, afraid, guilty, and ashamed. They are like an infection that blocks a physical wound from healing. With a physical wound, pain results when something interrupts healing or after repeated injury. The same thing happens in our brains!

Suffering results from exposure to a signficant trauma and/or repeated distressing events. In response to the suffering we often develop coping mechanisms that, at times, produce more suffering and unwanted emotional, relational, and behavioral patterns.

Rooted in the belief that our brains are incredibly resilient, EMDR helps us become unstuck. When given the right tools our brains and our bodies move towards health, just as the body works to heal a physical wound. With EMDR, clinicians can assist clients in removing the block so that the brain's natural healing process resumes and suffering decreases. In doing so people are able to look back at those core bothersome memories more adaptively and without distress. When this happen our thinking changes, we feel better, and our actions are impacted.

For more information on EMDR, including research and explanation of an EMDR session please visit

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