FAQ with Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT: EMDR Therapy


Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

Thaddeus Heffner is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in the greater Nashville, Tennessee area. We recently sat down with Thaddeus Heffner to answer some questions regarding the use of EMDR in dealing with trauma.

A Gathering of Experts: Welcome, Thaddeus Heffner and thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. We have been hearing about a new type of therapy called EMDR. Can you explain exactly what EMDR is?

Thaddeus Heffner: Of course. EMDR is an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing.  It is a quite a mouthful, but put simply it is the utilization of bilateral stimulation to desensitize trauma in a person.

A Gathering of Experts: What do you mean by bilateral stimulation?

Thaddeus Heffner: Bilateral stimulation simply means we get the left hemisphere of the brain to talk to the right hemisphere of the brain by using a basic means of stimulation such as a client following my fingers with his eyes as I move them back and forth horizontally, or by having them hold their hands palm up and then tapping their hands one at a time, left – right – left – right, etc.

A Gathering of Experts: How does bilateral stimulation fit in with helping desensitize trauma in a client?

Thaddeus Heffner: Let me back up a step.  Our senses take in data and that data comes first through the left hemisphere of the brain and then processes over to the right hemisphere of the brain.  This is how the brain talks.  When something traumatic happens, be it simple or complex trauma, the traumatic data comes into the left hemisphere of the brain but then gets stuck in the nervous system.  It never processes over to the right hemisphere.  Later on, when something triggers the trauma, the client can feel as though they are reliving the trauma all over again.

A Gathering of Experts: It sounds as though the person is stuck in a trauma loop?  They continue to repeat the old traumatic story over and over again.  So how does EMDR help desensitize the trauma?

Thaddeus Heffner: In short, after the client recalls a traumatic memory in which even physiological sensations may arise, the therapist would then implement bilateral stimulation.  This helps stimulate the left and right hemispheres of the brain to begin talking. Think of it like priming a pump before starting an engine.  In doing this, trauma becomes “unstuck” from the nervous system and begins to finish processing over to the right hemisphere of the brain.  The intense emotions of fear, anxiety, sadness, etc are finally felt and begin to diminish.  When the disturbance level of the trauma is diminished then we would turn to helping the client increase a positive belief about themselves that would be the antithesis of the original trauma.

A Gathering of Experts: Could you give us an example?

Thaddeus Heffner: Certainly. An example might be that a client who was mugged ten years ago still feels “unsafe.” Once the trauma around feeling unsafe is desensitized we would then work at increasing a positive belief such as, “I am safe” or “I am safe now.”

A Gathering of Experts: Do you utilize EMDR often in your own practice?

Thaddeus Heffner: I do. I find that it is very helpful for many different presenting issues that clients bring to therapy.  Depending on the trauma a person is presenting with, EMDR has shown to have up to an 80 – 90% success rate.

Thaddeus Heffner is a Brentwood, Tennessee-based counselor who owns his own practice. A graduate of Trevecca University in Nashville, Thaddeus Heffner is a member in good standing of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists (AAMFT). For more information about Thaddeus Heffner therapist, visit www.thaddeusheffner.com.




  1. Jeff King says:

    I heard that Thaddeus Heffner has made great progress using the eye movement therapy. I would be interested in finding out if this can be used in people with astigmatism or cataracts. Also, as a family therepist, how does Thaddeus Heffner use this type of treatments? Isn’t it just for trauma?

    • Jeff – Yes, EMDR can be used if people have astigmatism or cataracts. EMDR is based on binary stimulation so tapping someones knees, or the palm of each hand in a left-to-right pattern will do the same thing as left to right eye movement. In regards to using EMDR in family therapy, a therapist might possibly do some individual with different family members if there is specific trauma in which he or she might then use EMDR to work through the trauma.

      Thank your for reading and for your questions! – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

  2. Ronald Rodriguez says:

    EMDR is a very effective treatments and it sounds as though Thaddeus Heffner has done a great deal of research on the topic. It isn’t new to the scene of psychology but has just recently begun to gain recognition among professionals like Thaddeus Heffner. I foresee this becoming more of a normal part of therapy in the coming years.

    • Ronald – I agree with you that EMDR will become more of a normal part of therapy in the coming years. It is an amazing therapeutic construct. Thanks for reading. – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

  3. Sarah Evans says:

    That’s a mouthful! I had heard about this eye movement treatment in school a few years ago but never understood it. Thaddeus Heffner has explained it remarkably well (in layman terms). I don’t know if I think desensitizing trauma is right for everyone though. Guess I will leave that up to Thaddeus Heffner and the other professionals….

  4. Betty Wright says:

    So…by making the sides of the brain “talk,” Thaddeus Heffner can help people begin to let go of the emotions attached to a bad memory? That’s actually really neat. It’s cool to see someone who went to a Christian University incorporate science into their counseling. If my marriage therapist had been as forward thinking as Thaddeus Heffner, I may not have gotten a divorce.

  5. Sara – Thanks for reading and for your thoughts. All the best – Thaddeus Heffner, LMFT

  6. Thank you Thaddeus Heffner for this piece! How would I go about finding a therapist who is certified in EMDR? Is there a resource on the internet that I could use to locate such a therapist?

  7. Mark Perez says:

    Sounds like an amazing therapeutic approach. I want to know more about EMDR. Would you happen to know some good resources on the web for more info?

  8. Kenneth Hill says:

    Thaddeus Heffner explained EMDR in a way I could easily understand it. Much thanks

    • Thaddeus Heffner says:

      Kenneth – I’m glad you found this piece helpful and easily informative. Thank you for reading! – Thaddeus Heffner

  9. Linda Lewis says:

    I feel like I have a basic understanding of EMDR now – may consider this kind of therapy.

    • Thaddeus Heffner says:

      Linda – I’m glad to read that you are considering this. All the best on your journey. – Thaddeus Heffner

  10. Donald Scott says:

    Very insightful and helpful. Thank you Thaddeus Heffner

  11. Donald – You are welcome. I’m glad to know you found this helpful. Thank you for reading. – Thaddeus Heffner

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