How EMDR & ART Help Heal Trauma

70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced some type of traumatic event at least once in their lives. That’s 223.4 million people. More than 33% of youths exposed to community violence will experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a very severe reaction to traumatic events. (National Council for Behavioral Health)

Unprocessed trauma can have long-lasting and detrimental effects. Traumatic experiences can deeply impact one’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being, often leading to symptoms such as anxiety, depression, flashbacks, and self-destructive behaviors. Ignoring or burying trauma can perpetuate a cycle of pain and hinder personal growth. By acknowledging and addressing trauma in a safe and supportive environment, individuals can begin the healing process.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)

EMDR and ART are two therapeutic approaches used to treat trauma-related disorders and other mental health issues. While they share some similarities, there are also key differences between the two.

EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but has also been applied to various other conditions such as anxiety, phobias, and depression. EMDR incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) along with bilateral stimulation techniques such as eye movements, hand tapping, or auditory tones.

The therapy involves a structured eight-phase approach where the client focuses on a traumatic memory or distressing event while simultaneously tracking the therapist’s bilateral movements or auditory cues. The goal is to facilitate the reprocessing of traumatic memories and reduce the associated distress and negative beliefs.

“EMDR has been a helpful tool in helping patients process through “stuck” trauma memories and allowing space for new beliefs and feelings to take place. EMDR allows the brain to naturally process and organize information that it couldn’t when the trauma initially occurred,” said Megan Davies, LSCSW. “I have found that patients are able to experience relief from these intense emotions by allowing them to process in a safe environment and practice attunement with their bodies. It’s an effective healing tool and I’m thankful to be able to share this with our people!”

Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART): Accelerated Resolution Therapy is a relatively newer form of therapy, like EMDR, it is primarily used for trauma-related disorders such as PTSD, but it can also address issues like anxiety, depression, and addiction. ART integrates elements of traditional cognitive-behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, and eye movements.

In ART, the therapist guides the client through a series of eye movements while instructing them to visualize positive images related to the traumatic memory or distressing event. This process aims to modify the way the memory is stored and processed by the brain, leading to a reduction in emotional distress and symptom improvement.

“I love utilizing Accelerated Resolution Therapy with my patients because it is safe, efficient, and helps people to feel relief very quickly, said Jenny Robinson, LSCSW. “It is versatile, and can be used not only with trauma, but for depression, anxiety, phobias, self harm, and suicidal ideation, among many other issues.”

It’s important to note that while EMDR and ART have shown promising results in clinical studies, the effectiveness of any therapeutic approach can vary depending on the individual and the specific nature of their condition.

Seeing a mental health professional can provide a supportive environment to process trauma, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and gain a deeper understanding of oneself. Trauma isn’t the only factor that contributes to a person’s mental health. Therapy allows individuals to work through underlying issues, build resilience, and develop effective strategies for managing stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

At Heartland Community Health Center, our primary care providers work in collaboration with our mental health team as part of a whole-person treatment plan. At your appointment, in addition to connecting you with a mental health provider, your primary care physician can send any necessary medications to our in-house pharmacist at River City Pharmacy.