EMDR is popular because it works
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR is a therapy treatment that allows people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that they have experienced from a traumatic experience. EMDR Therapy is able to help the mind heal from the psychological trauma as the body heals from the physical trauma. Clinicians trained in EMDR use detailed procedures in sessions which help clients activate their natural healing process.
Studies in which EMDR has been used has been shown to be effective as 84-90% of single-trauma clients no longer have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after only three 90 minute sessions. Research on EMDR has made this type of therapy as a recognized form of treatment for trauma.
What to expect
EMDR is an eight-phase treatment where eye movements are used in part of the session. The clinician will determine what memory to specifically target first. Clinicians will ask clients to hold different aspects of the event in mind and use clients eyes to track clinicians hand as it moves back and forth across the clients field of vision. As this happens internal associations arise and the client begins to process the memory and disturbing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy the meaning behind painful events is transformed on an emotional level. EMDR therapy helps clients feel empowered over events that once were very traumatic to them.
EMDR Therapy involves Past, Present, and Future. The focus is given to past disturbing memories and related events, present situations that are causing distress, and the ability to develop skills needed for future positive actions. These items are outlined in an eight-step approach.
Phase 1: During this phase the clinician will assess the client’s readiness and develops a treatment plan. Client and therapist will identify targets for EMDR processing. Some of these targets may include distressing memories, situations causing emotional distress, related incidents in the past, etc. Emphasis will be placed on the development of skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in the future. Initial EMDR processing may be directed toward childhood events rather than initial onset of traumatic event. clients will gain insight on situations and the distress will begin to resolve and change their behaviors. Length of treatment is dependent on number of traumatic experiences and the age of PTSD onset.
Phase 2: During this phase the therapist will help client realize that they have several ways of handling emotional distress. The therapist may teach client stress reduction techniques that the client can use during and between sessions.
Phases 3-6: During these phases a target will be identified and processed using EMDR therapy. This will involve the client identifying three things:
- The vivid visual image related to the memory
- A negative belief about self
- Related emotions and body sensations
The client at this time can also identify a positive belief about themselves and the clinician can help the client rate the positive belief as well as the intensity of negative emotions. Client from here will be instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while engaging in EMDR processing using bilateral simulation. This can include eye movements, taps, or tones. The type and length will be different for each client. At this point the client will be instructed to notice whatever happens during this process. The clinician will instruct the client to allow their mind to go blank during each set and notice whatever feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind. Depending on the client report clinician will choose next focus of attention. These repeated sets with directed focus attention will occur numerous times throughout the session. If the client becomes distressed the therapist will follow established procedures to help the client get back on track. When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory they will then be asked to think of the positive belief identified at the beginning of the session. Client may adjust positive belief if necessary and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.
Phase 7: At this stage clinician will ask client to keep log during the week documenting any related material that may arise. Clinician will remind client of self calming strategies that were previously mastered.
Phase 8: The final stage consists of examining the process made thus far