Types of Counseling: What is EMDR?

Types of Counseling: What is EMDR?

Orlando Counselor Providing EMDR Therapy

You’re panicked. You can’t think straight. You’re having a hard time feeling settled. You know you need help, but you’re not sure what type of counseling you need. You’ve been in therapy and talked about this already, but you are still triggered and bothered.

As a trauma and anxiety therapist providing counseling in Orlando, many of my clients have had this experience. So many people are relieved when I tell them about other types of counseling that go beyond talk therapy, that heal from the roots. Working at the root level requires a different approach than simply rehashing the past.

Getting to the Roots

Root work insists on a mindful and experiential approach that meets with the mapmaker where the wound began. What do I even mean by that? When difficult things happen in the past, they can get stored in our brains and bodies with a specific constellation of beliefs, emotions, body sensations, images, muscular tone, and five-sense perception. Root work means going back and unlocking all of this at the origin.

Before I jump right in, though, it’s important to point out that many clients don’t exactly know the “mapmaker” or the origin of the issues until we uncover these places in the “history taking” phase of therapy. This phase is a sort of excavating time, where I am looking for the roots or the mapmaker.

In this blog post, I explain how using EMDR in counseling is one way of doing the root work I mentioned above. In my next post, I will offer an explanation of using other “bottom up” approaches to get to the roots, as well.

Your Brain as a Filing System

Let’s imagine your brain is a computer filing system of beliefs, beliefs about yourself and the world. When it comes to filing things, the brain has two options. It can file things in a healthy adaptive way, where life’s events are coded as neutral or positive. Or the brain can file life’s events in a limiting way, where events are stored as negative beliefs about self or the world. Internally, there are two filing cabinets: Positive/Neutral and Negative/Limited.

Positive/Neutral File

When things go well or smooth, the system files life events in a healthy and adaptive way in the filing cabinet Positive/Neutral. For example, “I am a good enough person.” “I am capable.” “I am loving.” “I can count on others.” All the other aspects of these memories, the emotions and body sensations, fit with those positive or neutral beliefs and life moves along. All systems are running smoothly and everything seems to line up.

Next, let’s say a difficult event happens like you make a mistake at work and get embarrassed. You leave work that day and you’re having thoughts like, “Oh man, I suck.” You feel awkward and uncomfortable. You go home, workout, go to bed, and sleep it off. The next day, you wake up and it’s not as intense. You’re actually able to tell yourself, “I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes. I can learn from this mistake.” And now, you don’t feel so uneasy anymore. In this case, your brain and your body are doing the work to process this difficult event in an adaptive and healthy way. Even though it was difficult at the time, nothing got stuck or fragmented. You were naturally able to work through the emotions and body sensations, and eventually file the event under the Positive/Neutral filing cabinet in the file labeled “I am good enough.”

Negative/Limited File

Now, let’s say something REALLY disturbing or overwhelming happens or a series of disturbing events happen. The brain has a more difficult time naturally processing these challenging things and filing the event in the Positive/Neutral filing cabinet. These events seem to get stuck in the negative belief filing system. Some examples are “I am not safe,” “I am not good enough.” or “I can’t trust anyone.” Other aspects of the memory that include the emotions, images, body sensations, muscular tone, and five senses can get fragmented and frozen in time. Then anything that reminds your brain of any aspect of the event creates a feedback loop that reinforces the negative belief about yourself or the world.

How EMDR Helps

When explaining how EMDR works, I like to use the analogy of defragging a computer file. I realize the term “defragging” dates me back to the days of dial-up AOL, and not all of my readers are from the days of “You have mail.” So, other terms that have the same meaning are optimizing, updating, or cleaning up the computer file. Through the process of EMDR, the files that are stored in the Negative/Limited filing cabinet get defragmented and refiled in the healthy filing cabinet of Positive/Neutral.

EMDR intentionally identifies the negative belief that the memory is filed under and locates the positive or neutral file my client would like this memory to be filed under. Through bilateral stimulation and mindfully attending to all the other aspects of the memory, the defragmentation process occurs allowing the file to be placed in the adaptive or healthy filing cabinet of Positive/Neutral.

If you’ve been in regular talk therapy in the past and have not gotten the results you are hoping for, you may want to consider seeing an EMDR therapist that will help get to the roots of the issues that brought you to therapy.

Orlando Counseling for Trauma

If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR counseling in Orlando, feel free to check out this page on trauma counseling in Orlando. You can also reach me through my contact page.

More on Alternative Therapies

Types of Counseling: Trauma Counseling

Types of Counseling: Mind, Body, and Emotion

Types of Counseling: A Bottom Up Approach

Types of Counseling: What The Brain Says About Therapy

Types of Counseling: Sensorimotor Psychotherapy


Lauran is an anxiety and trauma therapist providing counseling in Orlando, FL. She also specializes in helping people heal old broken relationship patterns that keep them from finding, creating, and keeping healthy relationships with partners, friends, and family. Lauran uses a down to earth approach infused with cutting-edge therapies that go beyond traditional talking to help clients feel calm in their body and mind and find peace within themselves.