EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people 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 that 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 or impact of adverse life experiences, 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, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes.
As a natural outcome of the EMDR therapeutic process, the clients’ maladaptive thoughts, feelings and behaviors are all addressed through the process and the body's natural system facilitates emotional health and resolution—all without speaking in detail or doing homework used in other therapies.
When is EMDR Helpful?
EMDR is helpful in cases where a person knows how they want to think, feel, or behave, and yet they feel hijacked by their bodies and emotions. one way to describe it is a “a mind-body split or disconnect.” People know what they want, and yet their bodies are doing something else. In many cases, clients have tried to work on and resolve these issues in traditional talk therapy with limited success.
EMDR has many applications, including but not limited to: panic attacks, PTSD symptoms, unresolved trauma, intrusive thoughts, anxiety and stress, phobias, test and performance anxiety, agoraphobia, impulse control issues, depression, procrastination, anger issues, chronic pain, shame and self-esteem concerns, self-defeating behaviors, emotional dysregulation, adjustment concerns, and unresolved grief.
What Does and EMDR Session Look Like?
There are eight phases to EMDR therapy:initial history discovery and treatment planning, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and then reevaluation.
Your therapist will first provide you with information and education on EMDR. Your therapist will conduct an assessment to determine what may be targeted or addressed in emdr therapy and further review the potential benefits or outcomes you may experience as a result of EMDR treatment. Any questions you may have will be answered.
After the therapist and client agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, the therapist and client will develop a target sequence plan to address the agreed upon goals through EMDR. The therapist and client will then develop positive resources that will be used throughout the course of reprocessing sessions to aid in regulation or containment of any emotional stress.
During a reprocessing session the client will be asked to focus on a specific event. Attention will be given to a negative image, belief, and body feeling related to this event, and then to a positive belief that would indicate the issue was resolved. While the client focuses on the upsetting event, the therapist will begin sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps(Bilateral Stimulation). The client will be guided to notice what comes to mind after each set. They may experience shifts in insight or changes in images, feelings, or beliefs regarding the event.
The client has full control to stop the therapist at any point if needed. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event becomes less disturbing. As a result of the event becoming less disturbing there is typically a shift in emotions, thoughts, body sensations or behaviors/responses to normally triggering stimuli.
A typical EMDR therapy session lasts a normal counseling hour. EMDR therapy may be used within a standard talk therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
What Are The Benefits of EMDR?
There are many benefits to EMDR.
A few main reasons people choose or prefer EMDR include:
♦ EMDR can be used to target a specific issue or concern.
♦ EMDR can help improve self-awareness, the mind-body connection, self-soothing, and stress-reduction.
♦ EMDR can aid in increasing distress tolerance.
♦ EMDR can help desensitize the client to normally triggering stimuli so the client will not experience the same reactions or responses in the future.
♦ Because EMDR works through the body and central nervous system, the client does not have to “know” or “understand” their issues clearly – your body will do the work and knows what to do.
♦ EMDR can be effective for issues that go beyond the benefits of talk therapy.
♦ EMDR works through the body, so clients can often work through very sensitive matters without having to “tell their story” or share material that makes them uncomfortable.