EMDR in Kansas City

EMDR Explained

Our brain and body’s number one job in this life is to protect us, which means keeping us safe and alive no matter what. I want to pause and express the gratitude I feel when I think of just how loving and compassionate your system is, you are your number supporter. But commonly, the ‘keeping us safe and alive no matter what’ part gets stuck and doesn’t update to the present.

Talk therapy can support the cognitive understanding of ‘why’ you may be stuck but as our bodies do not understand or process cognitive language, we can find ourselves in talk therapy for years with little relief from the symptoms we sought to heal.

EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing, is a neurobiological informed way of healing and integrating.

Here is an idea of how EMDR works:


Assessment: The therapist and client will work together to identify traumatic memories or distressing experiences; this could be an isolated experience, chronic trauma/adversity, or a core belief that has developed such as, “I am
not good enough”, “I will never be worthy”, “My needs and wants are not important”, etc. The therapist and client will spend intentional time preparing and planning for the processing.


The therapist supports the client to process these memories by guiding through sets of bilateral
stimulation; bilateral stimulation is achieved through your preferred means such as eye movements, alternating tones, or alternating tactile stimulation and will be established during the assessment phase. Bilateral stimulation supports memory processing by uncoupling the distressing emotions of traumatic memories.


As the bilateral stimulation continues, the client’s brain is believed to reprocess the memory in a way that reduces emotional intensity and associated distress. This can lead to a shift in thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about oneself and the traumatic event(s).


Throughout the process, the therapist will help the client to integrate new, more adaptive beliefs and perspectives about oneself and the traumatic experience(s). This can involve replacing negative self-perceptions with positive affirmations or reframing the meaning of the traumatic experience(s).

As an empirically validated treatment for trauma, theory suggests that bilateral stimulation used in EMDR helps to activate the brain’s natural information processing mechanisms, allowing traumatic memories to be reprocessed and integrated effectively.

It is important to understand the EMDR primarily targets psychological symptoms related to trauma rather than explicit physical symptoms. However, we know that trauma has a profound impact on both our mind and body and by addressing the underlying psychological distress, EMDR may indirectly lead to improvements in physical symptoms such as chronic pain, insomnia, or somatic complaints. By reducing the overall stress response and improving regulation mechanisms, EMDR supports overall health and well-being.

So, whether you’re experiencing anxiety, depression, addiction, isolation, PTSD, grief, or other distressing sensations and symptoms, EMDR could be the tool to support your healing and integration.

McKenna Elfrink, LPC is an EMDR Therapist in Training and seeks ongoing support and consultation through EMDR Consulting, founded by Roy Kiessling.