In a previous article, we talked about what EMDR therapy is, how it works, and how it helps. Now, we’re going to dive deeper into EMDR therapy. Because it’s an interactive therapy technique, it’s effective when dealing with upsetting events because your attention is redirected. Painful or traumatic memories can cause powerful psychological responses.
However, using EMDR over time proves to reduce the intensity of these memories and make trauma, addiction, and anxiety less impactful. EMDR Therapy is Different from Other Therapies.
Unlike other types of therapies, EMDR doesn’t require discussing the details of traumatic events, nor do you need to complete homework before the next session. Instead of focusing on changing your thoughts, emotions, or behaviors due to the stressful issue, EMDR therapy allows a more natural healing process of your brain to occur.
EMDR therapy may be completed in fewer sessions than other psychotherapies because it’s intended to deal with traumatic memories that haven’t yet been resolved.
Conditions that respond the best to EMDR therapy include trauma disorders like: Panic attacks, PTSD, Anxiety, Social anxiety, Addictions, Impulsive/unwanted behavior.
For those who find it challenging to reveal past experiences, or those with traumatic memories, or PTSD, EMDR can be particularly beneficial. And EMDR therapy can be used with children of any age or adults.
Our brains are naturally wired to recoup from events and traumatic memories. EMDR therapy involves communication between the amygdala (the stressful event alarm signal), the hippocampus (involved with learning, including memories about both danger and safety), and the prefrontal cortex (the analyzer controlling emotions and behavior).
We’ve all heard the terms fight, flight, or freeze as natural responses to stress. When continued stress from a painful event remains, the images, thoughts, and emotions that are upsetting can create a feeling of being overwhelmed or “frozen in time” from being back in that period.
EMDR therapy helps process memories more effectively and resume our brain’s routine healing. The disturbing event is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze stress response is resolved.
EMDR therapy takes multiple sessions and has many different phases, so please plan to attend all the sessions for optimal improvement. Most EMDR therapy sessions last 60-90 minutes.
Phase 1: History and Planning for Treatment
We’ll need to review your history and determine your treatment progress thus far. Next, we’ll talk about your specific trauma and pinpoint possible traumatic memories.
Phase 2: Groundwork
Our therapists will offer several different coping methods for your psychological or emotional stress. We can suggest options like mindfulness and deep breathing for handling anxiety more effectively.
Phase 3: Evaluation
Additional factors such as physical sensations are aroused when you focus on different thoughts, and your therapist will determine what specific memories to target in Phase 3 of EMDR treatment.
Phases 4-7: Treatment
Our therapists begin using EMDR therapy approaches to treat your specific memories. During this process, there are things we’ll ask you to do, such as:
1. Focus on recollections, images, or negative thoughts
2. Perform specific eye movements
3. EMDR Therapy
4. Eye Movements in EMDR
Depending on your experiences, we may include other exercises simultaneously.
After you’ve completed this, we’ll ask you to empty your mind and take note of the thoughts and feelings you have during those moments. Once you determine these feelings, your therapist may ask you to either refocus on the same recollections, images or negative thoughts or move on to a different memory.
If stirring up old traumatic memories makes you upset, our therapists will help bring you forward into the present. Being treated with EMDR therapy does not exacerbate symptoms during treatment; however, over time, images, thoughts, and negative feelings that previously sparked distress should start to diminish.
Phase 8: Interpretation
In the last phase, you and your therapist will evaluate your progress. Both independent and controlled studies show that EMDR therapy is a powerful treatment for PTSD, so much so that the Department of Veterans Affairs strongly advises this practical option for PTSD patients.
Prolonged exposure therapy is not as effective at treating symptoms as EMDR therapy is. EMDR therapy is also effective both short and long-term, unlike some other forms of treatment. Some patients even experience positive effects long after EMDR treatment.
EMDR’s Effectiveness in Treating Depression:
In small study patients with depression were treated with EMDR, and 68% experienced full remission after the treatment compared to patients in a control group who didn’t receive therapy. And, overall the group of patients treated with EMDR had a more substantial decrease in depressive symptoms.
Here’s What to Know Before You Try EMDR Therapy:
This type of therapy is considered safe, with fewer side effects than prescription medications.
Because the basis of EMDR therapy asks you to recall stressful events in your life to begin treating them, it can cause hyper-awareness in your thinking process, which doesn’t immediately stop when the session is over. Hyper awareness can cause some light-headedness and vivid, realistic dreams.
At the onset of therapy, traumatic events can be incredibly triggering because of your hyper-aware state. As is the case with most forms of treatment, it can be disturbing as you progress through the course of treatment.
Your therapist can provide you with some additional coping mechanisms if you experience these symptoms.
EMDR Therapy Without a Trained Therapist?
EMDR therapy is meant to be an intervention in mental health. Because of this, it should only be offered by licensed mental health therapists who’ve been adequately trained. EMDRIA doesn’t support or make allowances for unplanned DIY therapy.