Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
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 many different treatment approaches. As EMDR is a mental health intervention, it should only be offered by properly trained and licensed mental health clinicians.
What kind of problems can EMDR treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, results have proven to be effective and long lasting. It has also been successfully used to help clients with:
- Grief and Loss
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Fears, Phobias, Phobias and fears (animals, heights, snakes etc)
- Adult and Childhood Trauma
- Sexual and Physical Abuse
- Disturbing Memories
- Stress Reduction
- Anger management
- Injuries (accidents, sports, dog bite etc)
- Dissociative Disorders
- Repeated medical interventions and Chronic Pain
- Natural disasters (hurricane, fire, tornado, flood)
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- Reactive Attachment Disorder
- Eating Disorders
- Addictions (substance abuse, gambling, sex)
- Sleep problems
- Domestic Violence
- Car accidents
- Self-esteem and performance anxiety
How does EMDR work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
What is the actual EMDR session like?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is applicable for a wide range of psychological problems and diagnoses that result from overwhelming life experiences. EMDR integrates many of the successful elements of a range of therapeutic approaches, yet there are aspects of EMDR that are unique. In particular, the therapist leads a client in a series of lateral eye movements while the client simultaneously focuses on various aspects of a disturbing memory. The left – right eye movements in EMDR therapy are a form of “bilateral stimulation”. Other forms of bilateral stimulation used by EMDR therapists include alternating bilateral sound using headphones, a light bar/box, alternating tactile simulation using a handheld device that vibrates or taps to the back of the client’s hands, bilateral knee or shoulder tapping.
There are 8 Phases of Treatment
The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the history of the client. Complete treatment of the targets involves a three pronged protocol (1-past memories, 2-present disturbance, 3-future actions), and are needed to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health. “Processing” does not mean talking about it. “Processing” means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.
Does EMDR work with children?
EMDR can be used with children of all ages. EMDR has been used successfully with very young children, as well as with adolescents who do not want to talk out loud about the upsetting issues. As with any intervention, the younger the child or the more avoidant the child, the more challenging it is to find ways to engage them and focus their attention on the problem at hand. However, EMDR has been used sucessfully to help children deal with traumatic events, depression, anxiety, phobias, and other behavioral problems. Just as with adults, the EMDR process is different for each child, because the healing process is guided from within. Some children report that EMDR is relaxing and have an immediate positive response. Other children may feel tired at the end of a session, and the benefit from the treatment comes in the days to follow. (EMDR and Children: A Guide for Parents, Professionals, and Others Who Care About Children, emdria.org
For more information on EMDR, FAQ’s, and Frequently Asked Questions visit: https://www.emdria.org