What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based, eight-stage psychotherapy method using bilateral stimulation to help people recover from trauma as well as other distressing life events. Eye movements are typically used, but sometimes tapping or noise will be used depending on the client’s preferences/needs. This method focuses primarily on the mind/body connection by addressing distressing memories that the client still feels stuck or frozen in. During a traumatic incident different parts of the brain usually communicate with each other, allowing the person to properly process and resolve the incident, which also affects how the person remembers the incident. However, when this doesn’t happen, the person can become “frozen in time” and they aren’t able to reprocess the memory properly, leaving them with distressing emotional and physical associations with the memory. The client can find themselves reliving the trauma time and time again.
This is where EMDR can help.
Is EMDR different from Hypnotherapy
EMDR is totally different to hypnotherapy It can be used by itself or in addition to Hypnotherapy and other talking therapies. EMDR allows the client to address traumatic memories without having to relive the memory or immerse themselves in the memory. Instead, the client is asked to use a brief clip or snapshot that represents the worst part of the memory. While I will guide the client through the stages, the client is essentially in control, using verbal and/or non-verbal ways to communicate when they need to stop or take a break. It is important to note that the memory is still present after successful reprocessing, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the memory is resolved.
EMDR is also beneficial for more than just trauma. It has been used for anxiety, OCD, depression, anxiety, pain, grief, and many other things.
What an EMDR session looks like in eight steps:
- Client history gathering and treatment planning
I will begin gathering information to assess for previous traumatic events, mental and medical health history, support system, and internal and external resources. This is also where potential target memories will be identified.
In this stage I will explain in more detail how EMDR works and what the client should expect during and in between sessions. I will also work with the client to develop grounding and self-relaxation exercises for the client to use during and outside of sessions.
This is where I assess the memory to be targeted and how the client is most affected by the incident. A negative and positive cognition will be identified. A negative cognition is a negative belief the client holds about themself related to the target memory. The positive cognition is what they would like to believe about themselves now. The therapist can assist the client in identifying these If needed and both will be scaled numerically to assist in measuring progress as the therapy progresses. How valid the positive cognition currently feels to the client and the level of disturbance the client feels about the target memory will be assessed at this point.
This is where I will guide the client through bilateral stimulation to reprocess the incident. In this phase the incident and any other emotional or physical associations will be reprocessed.
In this phase bilateral stimulation will continue to be used to focus on and increase the belief in the positive cognition with the goal of replacing it with the negative cognition.
- Body Scan
In this stage the therapist guides the client through a body scan to make sure there are no physiological sensations still attached to the memory remaining and if so, more bilateral stimulation will be used to target these sensations and reprocess them.
Each session ends this way regardless of whether the reprocessing was completed or not. I will check in with the client to determine the client’s mental state. I then may guide the client through grounding and/or self-relaxation exercises before the session ends. These exercises can also be used in between sessions. The client will be briefed on what to expect in between sessions as well.
I will open each new session by checking in with client to see how the client is feeling and to make sure the treatment plan is effective and up to date. Revisiting the target for reprocessing may be done if needed.
EMDR was developed to help clients with PTSD but extensive studies have shown it extremely effective in also treating anxiety, depression, phobias, eating disorders, substance abuse, schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction, chronic illness-related stress, disturbing experience, and traumatic events.
More than 30 positive controlled outcome studies have been done on EMDR therapy. Some of the studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, 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.