Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
Life can be difficult…
When life becomes overwhelming, we often don’t stop to reflect on whether an experience or the circumstances in our life have created a trauma for us. Thus we may not consider ourselves someone who is dealing with trauma.
The reality is that trauma is created not only based on whether or not an event or circumstance is considered traumatic, but also based on how these are experienced by the individual; in other words, what may be traumatic to one person may not apply to another. Most people who cannot find an explanation for their unhealthy behaviors or relationship with themselves or others, but feel like they just cannot get a grip on their life are unaware they are dealing with the effects of unprocessed and unhealed trauma.
EMDR therapy can help you regain a sense of control over your life and overcome the blocks that have been created by traumatic life experiences.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment which comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity, and have thereby generated traumatic symptoms and/or harmful coping strategies.
EMDR therapy may help if you are experiencing any of the following:
- Panic Attacks, Phobias, Fears
- Depression, Anxiety, Grief
- Irritability, Anger, Hopelessness, Self-sabotage
- Low Self-esteem, Chronic pain, Chronic Stress
- Personality disorders, eating disorders, performance anxiety, complicated grief, stress reduction, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, addictions, pain disorders, sexual and/or physical abuse and body dysmorphic disorders.
EMDR therapy has been used to help individuals impacted by the effects of early childhood trauma or neglect, growing up with an alcoholic or drug-addicted parent, abandonment, bullying, the loss of a loved one, domestic violence, sexual assault, trauma by infidelity, divorce, abortion, and miscarriage and witnessed an accident, crime or survived a natural disaster.
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress resulting from disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show people who use EMDR can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.
EMDR therapy shows the mind can, in fact, heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering. Once the block is removed, healing resumes. Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, the clinician helps the client activate their natural healing processes.
There has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is now recognized as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense. Given the worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma, you can easily see how EMDR therapy would be effective in treating the “every day” memories that are the reason people have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and all the myriad problems that bring them in for therapy. Over 100,000 clinicians throughout the world use the therapy. Millions of people have been treated successfully for over 25 years.
How does it work?
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used during one part of the session. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise, and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. For instance, a rape victim shifts from feeling horror and self-disgust to holding the firm belief that, “I survived it and I am strong.”
Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own accelerated intellectual and emotional processes. The net effect is that clients conclude EMDR therapy feeling empowered by the very experiences that once debased them. Their wounds have not just closed, they have transformed. As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ thoughts, feelings, and behavior are all robust indicators of emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. The focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events. Also, it is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions. With EMDR therapy, these items are addressed using an eight-phase treatment approach.
Phase 1: The first phase is a history-taking session(s). The therapist assesses the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan.
Phase 2: During the second phase the therapist ensures the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress and may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques to use during and between sessions.
Phases 3-6: In phases three to six, a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures. These involve the client identifying three things:
- The vivid visual image related to the memory
- A negative belief about self
- Related emotions and body sensations.
In addition, the client identifies a positive belief. The therapist helps the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of the negative emotions. After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously engaging in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation. These sets may include eye movements, taps, or tones. The type and length of these sets is different for each client. At this point, the EMDR client is instructed to just notice whatever spontaneously happens.
After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes up. Depending upon the client’s report, the clinician will choose the next focus of attention. These repeated sets with directed, focused attention occur numerous times throughout the session.
Phase 7: In phase seven, closure, the therapist asks the client to keep a log during the week. The log should document any related material that may arise. It serves to remind the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.
Phase 8: The next session begins with phase eight. Phase eight consists of examining the progress made thus far. The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that elicit distress, and future events that will require different responses