What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from different treatment approaches.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy is a comprehensive psychotherapy model that uses a technique called bilateral stimulation (BLS) to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Therapists often use eye movements or tapping, among other creative ways to facilitate BLS. These eye movements, or other forms of BLS, are thought to mimic rapid eye movement, otherwise called REM sleep, which is when the mind processes the recent events and emotional distress in a person’s life. The bilateral stimulation engages the ‘whole brain’, or both hemispheres, to rapidly reprocess memories and disturbances, and elicits helpful insight. Internal associations arise bringing adaptive resolution to what was left unresolved and unprocessed around a past or recent distressing event. The client begins to process the memory and disturbing feelings through client history taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation of treatment. These eight phases of the treatment are described down below. EMDR seems to help the brain reprocess the trapped memories in such a way that normal information processing is resumed. Successful processing has the effect of the client feeling empowered by the very traumatic experiences that once debased them. Therapists often use EMDR to help clients uncover and process beliefs that developed as the result of relational traumas of childhood abuse and/or neglect.
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, and more:
Dissociation & Dissociative Disorders
PTSD & Disturbing Memories
Substance Abuse & Addictions
Sexual and Physical Abuse
Body Dysmorphic Disorders
Experiencing EMDR Therapy
After the therapist and client agree that this therapy is a good fit, the client will work through the 8 phases with their therapist.
The 8 Phases of EMDR Therapy
History taking and treatment planning
Preparation development resources & coping skills
Assessment of target(s)
Desensitization using Bilateral Stimulation
Installation of new positive beliefs
Clear body scan without disturbance
Closure and mindfulness of any related material
Examining the progress of the treatment
Generally, during phase 4, or the desensitization phase that utilizes BLS, attention will be given to a negative image, belief, emotion, and body sensation related to the selected event or target, and then also to a positive belief that would indicate the issue was resolved. A typical EMDR therapy session lasts from 60-90 minutes. This therapy may be used within a standard talking therapy, as adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself. Past, present, and future are considered in this comprehensive model. The focus is on past disturbances, present triggers and symptoms, and future integration of new adaptive beliefs and attitudes.
How quickly does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy is a specialized and highly effective approach to treating traumatic, and other symptoms, by reconnecting the client to a felt sense of safety in the moment. It is an empirical and evidence-based therapy that works with and resolved disturbing images, self-thoughts, emotions, and body sensations that lead to mental health disorders. It holistically allows the natural healing powers of the brain to move toward adaptive resolution.
What Does EMDR Therapy Feel Like?
Most of the 8-phase treatment model feels much the same as other types of therapy. It is typically phase 4, called the desensitization phase that utilizes BLS, and separates EMDR therapy from other therapies. During this phase of treatment, you will likely make spontaneous new insights and begin to notice that you feel less overwhelmed recollecting aspects of your chosen target, and you could potentially start to think about related memories that are painful or unpleasant. That is how EMDR therapy will make you feel, and that means your mind is beginning to heal.
None of the above symptoms or experiences fit you?
Do you experience distressing emotions that appear to you, and perhaps to others, to be excessive given the current situation? Do you tend to be highly reactive to certain triggers? Is there one or more dysfunctional beliefs that you believe about yourself that on an intellectual level you know is not true? If so, you may still be a good candidate for EMDR therapy. You might also be interested in our DBT Skills Groups, individual therapy, or another service with one of our compassionate and skilled therapists.