Beyond Talk Therapy: How EMDR Can Help You Overcome Emotional Distress
EMDR also known as ‘rapid eye movement therapy’ has revolutionized the field of mental health by offering a powerful and effective approach to healing from past traumas and emotional pain. By reprocessing traumatic memories or difficult experiences and integrating them into a more adaptive form, EMDR enables individuals to move beyond the limitations imposed by their past experiences. EMDR focuses on reprocessing traumatic memories by stimulating the brain’s natural healing processes. By incorporating eye movements, taps, or sounds, EMDR helps to unlock and process traumatic experiences, enabling individuals to move forward and reclaim their lives.
What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a therapeutic approach developed by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It is based on the understanding that traumatic memories are stored in a fragmented and unprocessed manner in the brain, which can contribute to the ongoing distress experienced by individuals. EMDR aims to reprocess these memories by activating the brain’s natural healing processes. The therapy involves bilateral stimulation, which can be achieved through eye movements, taps, or sounds, while the individual recalls the traumatic memory. This bilateral stimulation helps to activate both the left and right hemispheres of the brain, facilitating the integration of the traumatic memory into the individual’s overall memory network.
EMDR is a psychotherapy technique that has research demonstrativng effectiveness in helping those with anxiety, trauma, panic, disturbing memories, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress or other issues overcome their emotional distress.
What are the goals of EMDR?
EMDR helps you relieve distress, reformulate negative beliefs and reduce your anxiety response. 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.
Is EMDR the same as Rapid Eye-Movement Therapy?
When people refer to rapid eye movement therapy they are often referring to EMDR as colloqually these terms are used interchangebly. Interestingly, Dr Shapiro has expressed regret in refering to eye-movement in the name of the therapy because it is in fact the bilateral stimulation of the body that is the process that causes effect. Most EMDR psychologists and therapists will use a range of techniques such as buzzie or headphones to create bilateral stimulation.
Who Can Benefit from EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy can be beneficial for individuals who have experienced any form of trauma or emotional distress, including but not limited to:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Childhood abuse
- Sexual assault
- Combat-related trauma
- Natural disasters
- Car accidents
- Sudden loss of a loved one
It has emerging evidence for usefulness with obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder if used with the right combination of therapies.
It is important to note that while EMDR therapy has been proven effective for many individuals, it may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with certain psychiatric conditions or severe dissociative symptoms may require additional assessment and stabilization before proceeding with EMDR therapy. It is crucial to consult with a qualified EMDR therapist to determine whether this approach is appropriate for your specific needs.
Finding a qualified EMDR therapist
When seeking EMDR therapy, it is essential to find a qualified and experienced therapist who has received proper training in this therapeutic approach. The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) provides a directory of EMDR therapists who have completed the necessary training and certification requirements. At Aresolution a number of our psychologists are trained in EMDR.
Is EMDR effective?
EMDR can bring quick and lasting relief for many types of emotional distress. Through EMDR you identify the images, thoughts and or feelings that bring discomfort and sit with them as you do a series of eye movements to help reprocess them.
Extensive scientific research has demonstrated that EMDR is an effective and rapid method for healing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Many studies have been done on EMDR. One study found that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have PTSD after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR therapy follows a structured eight-phase approach that is tailored to the needs of each individual. The therapy begins with a thorough assessment of the individual’s history and current symptoms, as well as the identification of specific targets for processing. These targets may include specific traumatic memories, negative beliefs about oneself related to the trauma, and associated emotions and physical sensations. The therapist then guides the individual through a series of bilateral stimulation exercises while focusing on the identified targets. This process allows the individual to access and reprocess the traumatic memories, facilitating the resolution of distressing emotions and the integration of the memory into a more adaptive and less distressing form.
The eight phases of EMDR therapy are as follows:
Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning – The therapist gathers information about the individual’s history and develops a treatment plan based on their specific needs.
Phase 2: Preparation – The therapist educates the individual about EMDR therapy and helps them develop coping strategies to manage distressing emotions that may arise during the treatment.
Phase 3: Assessment – The therapist identifies the specific targets for processing, such as traumatic memories, negative beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations associated with the trauma.
Phase 4: Desensitization – The therapist guides the individual through the bilateral stimulation exercises while focusing on the identified targets, allowing the traumatic memories to be reprocessed.
Phase 5: Installation – The therapist helps the individual strengthen positive beliefs and emotions associated with the targeted memories, promoting a sense of empowerment and resilience.
Phase 6: Body Scan – The therapist guides the individual in scanning their body for any residual tension or discomfort related to the traumatic memories, facilitating further processing and resolution.
Phase 7: Closure – The therapist ensures that the individual is emotionally stable and provides them with strategies to manage any distress that may arise between sessions.
Phase 8: Reevaluation – The therapist reassesses the individual’s progress and determines if any additional targets need to be addressed.
What to expect during an EMDR session?
EMDR therapy sessions typically last between 60 to 90 minutes, although the duration can vary depending on individual needs. During a session, the therapist will guide you through the eight phases of EMDR therapy, as outlined earlier. The therapist will help you identify specific targets for processing, guide you through bilateral stimulation exercises, and provide support as you navigate the emotions and sensations that may arise during the session. It is important to remember that EMDR therapy can be an intense and emotionally charged experience, but your therapist will ensure your safety and well-being throughout the process.
Integrating EMDR therapy with other forms of therapy
EMDR therapy can be used as a standalone treatment for trauma-related conditions. However, it can also be integrated with other forms of therapy to enhance the overall treatment outcomes. For example, EMDR therapy can be combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to address negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with trauma. By combining these approaches, individuals can benefit from both the deeper processing of traumatic memories through EMDR and the cognitive restructuring techniques offered by CBT. The integration of EMDR therapy with other evidence-based therapies can provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to healing from past traumas.
EMDR therapist near me
When you enter the EMDR phase of therapy you will likely require a number of sessions quite closely spaced (often this is bi-weekly or weekly). It is important that your EMDR therapist is local to you so seeing someone you can reach within 30 minutes is ideal.