What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

Life presents us with some high-level emotional experiences along the journey from birth to adulthood. Trauma can occur if any of these experiences are deeply distressing or disturbing and if there was physical harm present or the threat thereof. It can be difficult to process trauma and move past the negative subconscious feelings associated with the trauma without professional guidance. Luckily, trauma-focused psychotherapies like Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR) are proven for treating PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

8 Phase Treatment Approach

Life after a traumatic event can feel uncomfortable, unstable and full of fear. Often, an individual who has suffered trauma may have trouble understanding what happened to them, which hinders the ability to process the associated emotions. The symptoms of PTSD can last from months to years to a lifetime if not treated properly. EMDR is backed by evidence for successfully treating PTSD. Generally, individuals with single event adult onset trauma can be successfully treated in less than five hours. Multiple trauma victims may require a longer treatment time. Below, the eight phases of EMDR treatment are defined.

Phase 1

The therapist will assess the individual’s history to start developing a plan for treatment. Traumatic events, memories, and experiences in the patient’s life are discussed to identify triggers and possible targets for EMDR processing. Processing may be directed toward childhood events as well as adult stressors. During this phase, the therapist outlines particular behaviors that can assist the individual in future situations.

Phase 2

Next, the therapist teaches the individual a myriad of imagery and stress reduction techniques that the individual can use at home between sessions to handle emotional distress. EMDR therapy promotes rapid, effective progress while the individual maintains stability during and between sessions.

Phases 3 through 6

A specific target for treatment is determined and processed using EMDR therapy methods in phases three through six so that the individual can identify a positive self-belief. The methods used involve the individual identifying the vivid visual image related to the memory, a negative belief about self and related emotions and physical sensations. The therapist then helps the individual rate both the newly formed positive belief and the intensity of the negative emotions.

The individual is instructed to focus on the image, the negative thought, and the physical sensations in the body. Simultaneously, the individual engages in EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation, which may include eye movements, taps, or tones. Following each set, the therapist will ask the individual to let his/her mind go blank and to notice any thoughts, feelings, images, memories, or sensations that come to mind. Depending upon the individual’s responses, the therapist will choose the next focus of attention. These repeated sets with directed focused attention occur several times throughout the session.

Finally, when the individual reports no distress related to the targeted memory, he or she is asked to think of the positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the treatment. The individual may adjust the positive belief, if necessary, and then focus on it during the next set of distressing events.

Phase 7

This phase begins closure. The therapist asks the individual to keep a journal during the week, documenting any related material that arises. The purpose of this journal is to remind the individual to use the self-calming behaviors and skills learned in phase 2.

Phase 8

The therapist and individual examine the progress made up to this point. The EMDR treatment processes all related historical events, current incidents that evoke distress, and future events that will require different responses.

Seeking help can alleviate these negative symptoms and get you back on the path toward the peace of mind you deserve.

Benefits of EMDR

EMDR, as described above, can help you process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings related to the trauma so that you can heal. Processing these experiences allows you to get relief from PTSD symptoms. Individuals generally gain insight into their situations and they start to change their behaviors. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, negative beliefs are reformulated into positive mental patterns, physiological arousal is reduced and affective distress is relieved.

If you or someone you know could benefit from EMDR, get help today. Call to schedule an appointment, and start healing now.