What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that treats trauma and other mental health issues. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from different treatment approaches.
Trauma can impact people in different ways. An issue associated with trauma is the long-term effects it can cause. That includes flashbacks/dreams, fear, and even physical symptoms that can wreak havoc on your life. No matter what traumatic event you’ve been through, get the help you deserve. Your trauma doesn’t define you; it doesn’t have to take over your life.
While there are plenty of trauma therapies to consider, one of the most effective is EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a type of psychotherapy that uses rapid eye movements to reduce the power of traumatic events in your mind. Whether you’ve heard of EMDR or not, let’s dig a little deeper into what it is, what you can expect, and whether it’s right for you.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy using bilateral stimulation to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Therapists often use eye movements to facilitate bilateral stimulation. These eye movements mimic the period of sleep referred to as rapid eye movement or REM sleep, and this portion of sleep is frequently considered to be the time when the mind processes the recent events in the person’s life.
EMDR seems to help the brain reprocess the trapped memories that normal information processing is resumed. Therapists often use EMDR to help clients uncover and process beliefs that developed as the result of relational traumas, or childhood abuse and/or neglect. For a more detailed information please visit https://www.emdria.org.
The idea of EMDR is that it lessens the fear associated with your trauma. By using a series of rapid eye movements in a controlled setting, you’ll become desensitized to the trauma itself, and you’ll be able to reprocess it in a way that doesn’t make it seem so overwhelming.
It’s important to note that EMDR does not make you forget about your experience. The traumatic event will always be there. Instead, it helps you have more control and power over it, rather than the other way around.
What to Expect
EMDR is broken down into eight phases.
Throughout those phases, you can expect to talk with your therapist about your history and the traumatic event, itself. That will serve as a baseline and make it easier for your therapist to know how to guide you once the reprocessing begins. You’ll also go through preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, and body scan.
Throughout these processes, you’ll be asked to identify your specific traumatic experience. Often, that includes establishing a vivid image related to the event that stays within your memory. You might also be asked to think about a negative belief you hold about yourself.
From there, your therapist will begin the desensitization process. You’ll focus on that negative image while they use bilateral stimulation. This is usually done by guiding your eye movements, though it can also be done through a series of taps. Throughout the process, you’ll be instructed to notice your emotions and body sensations.
When the stimulation is done, you’ll be asked to let your mind go blank. This gives you the opportunity to let go of that negative image, and replace it with a positive one.
The Eight Phases of EMDR
Here is a brief bulleted list of the eight steps:
- Client History– Identify target memories, past events, present triggers, future needed behaviors.
- Preparation – Prepare the client appropriately using techniques for affect control and processing for the therapy.
- Assessment – Fully assess and evaluate target memories, feelings, beliefs, negative and positive beliefs, etc.
- Desensitization – Use eye movements or other forms of bilateral simulation to process memories.
- Installation – Install positive beliefs about self to replace negative beliefs and affects associated with memories.
- Body Scan – Eliminate any remaining physiological symptoms with further bilateral stimulation.
- Closure – Return client to safe calm equilibrium as session ends.
- Re-evaluation – Check that all aspects of memory have been fully processed
What does EMDR help?
EMDR had been originally established as helpful for PTSD, although it’s been proven useful for treatment in the following conditions:
- Panic Attacks
- Complicated Grief
- Dissociative Orders
- Disturbing Memories
- Pain Disorders
- Performance Anxiety
- Stress Reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical Abuse
- Body Dysmorphic Disorders
- Personality Disorders
Is EMDR Right for You?
The goal of EMDR is to eventually experience no distress when it comes to a specific traumatic memory. It doesn’t erase the memory from your mind but allows you to see it differently and know that you’re safe and secure even when you think about it.
EMDR may not be for everyone. But, it’s a great solution for people who want something different than traditional talk therapy. Or, maybe you’ve tried other methods and haven’t experienced anything that works. Research has shown that EMDR can help with a variety of symptoms that are often associated with trauma, including anger and stress.
If you’ve been through a traumatic experience, you deserve to be in control. EMDR is so effective because it actually changes the way your brain views the trauma. Rather than just talking things through, you’ll experience a real shift that will last a lifetime. If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR and whether or not it would be a good fit, contact me to schedule a free phone consultation.