Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy treatment that allows individuals to heal from the physical symptoms, sensations and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences (Shapiro, 1989a, 1989b). EMDR therapy facilitates the accessing and processing of traumatic memories to bring these to a resolution. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. EMDR is an eight-phase treatment. Eye movements, hand-tapping or audio stimulation tapping are used throughout each phase of treatment. This is called bilateral stimulation. After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, she asks the client to hold different parts of that event or thought in mind and to use their eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, subconscious processing occurs, memories arise and the clients begin to process this information and distressing feelings. In successful EMDR therapy, the meaning of painful events is transformed on an emotional level. Unlike talk therapy, the insights clients gain in EMDR therapy result not so much from clinician interpretation, but from the client’s own intellectual and emotional processes. After successful treatment with EMDR therapy, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal is reduced.
EMDR therapy focuses on the past, present, and future. Focus is given to past distressful memories and related events. Additionally, attention is given to current situations that cause distress, and to developing the coping skills and belief systems needed for the future. The phases of EMDR are listed below:
Phase 1: history-taking session(s) and treatment planning
Phase 2: grounding, safety, stabilization (goal is to teach stress reduction techniques for the client to use during EMDR therapy and between sessions)
Phases 3-6: target memory is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures and bilateral stimulation
Phase 7: closure
Phase 8: The next session begins with phase eight. Phase eight consists of examining the progress made thus far, including all related historical events, current situations that elicit distress, and future events that will require processing.
Research has shown that symptom desensitization can occur within four-12 sessions, depending on the intensity of a person’s symptomology.
If you or your loved one is impacted by PTSD and the symptoms related and is inquiring about EMDR therapy, please contact Advantage Mental Health for further information and treatment options.
Shapiro, 2001 (2016). EMDR Institute, Inc., Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing