EMDR and Trauma: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy treatment designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories. It’s particularly effective for individuals who have experienced various types of trauma, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), childhood trauma, and recent traumatic events.
Trauma can have profound psychological effects, often leading to PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders. Traditional therapy methods can be effective, but EMDR offers a unique approach that can often lead to quicker and more complete resolution of these issues.
How EMDR Works
EMDR therapy involves eight phases: history taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation. During the desensitization phase, the therapist guides the client in eye movements or other bilateral stimulation while the client focuses on the traumatic memory. This process helps the brain reprocess the memory, reducing its emotional impact.
EMDR and Trauma Treatment
Numerous studies have shown the effectiveness of EMDR in treating trauma. For example, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology found that EMDR was effective in reducing PTSD symptoms in a majority of clients.
What You Can Expect from EMDR Trauma Treatment
EMDR therapy involves eight phases
- History Taking: The therapist will gather information about your history and identify potential targets for EMDR processing.
- Preparation: The therapist will explain the EMDR process and teach you specific techniques for dealing with emotional distress.
- Assessment: You will be asked to focus on a specific traumatic or distressing event, along with the negative image, self-referencing belief, and body feeling related to it.
- Desensitization: While you focus on the event, your therapist will begin sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, and/or taps¹. You will be guided to notice what comes up in your body and mind after each round of dual-attention stimuli lasting 20-120 seconds¹.
- Installation: The therapist will help you concentrate on positive thoughts and beliefs to replace the negative ones.
- Body Scan: The therapist will ask you to bring the target event to mind and notice if there are any residual body sensations.
- Closure: This phase ensures that you leave each session feeling better than when you arrived.
- Reevaluation: At the beginning of subsequent sessions, the therapist checks to maintain the previous session’s positive effects.
What to Expect During and After Treatment
During the desensitization phase, you will likely experience shifts in body sensations, insight, or changes in images, feelings, or belief(s) regarding the event being targeted with EMDR therapy. As the client, your therapist will remind you that you have full control to stop, pause, slow down, or speed up the process at any point as needed.
After EMDR therapy, most clients can expect to feel relief, have lower distress levels related to traumatic memories, and no longer feel like the traumatic event is still happening to them. People can expect to have increased coping skills and tools for dealing with future distress and will have gained healthier thoughts and beliefs.
EMDR therapy appears to work by directly affecting the brain and “unfreezing” the traumatic memories, allowing you to resolve them. Over time, you can work through the disturbing memories and associated feelings until you can think about the event without reliving it. The memory is still there, but it is less upsetting⁴.
Remember, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to discuss your treatment options and understand if EMDR is the right fit for you. 😊
In conclusion, EMDR is a powerful tool in the treatment of trauma, offering hope to those who have been deeply affected by traumatic events. While it’s not a cure-all, it’s a valuable part of a comprehensive treatment plan for trauma and PTSD.
What to Expect in Your Initial EMDR Therapy Sessions. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/relationship-and-trauma-insights/202012/what-to-expect-in-your-initial-emdr-therapy-sessions
What Should You Expect After EMDR? – Choosing Therapy. https://www.choosingtherapy.com/what-to-expect-after-emdr/
EMDR Therapy for Trauma, PTSD, Anxiety, and Panic – HelpGuide.org. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/therapy-medication/emdr-therapy.htm
EMDR Therapy: What It Is, Procedure & Effectiveness – Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/22641-emdr-therapy
Prolonged Exposure: Helping During Treatment – PTSD: National Center …. https://www.ptsd.va.gov/family/docs/Family_HowHelpEMDR.pdf