Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a non-invasive approach that helps people reprocess and resolve stressful memories. EMDR therapy has been around since the 1980s and has been shown to be especially effective in treating PTSD and trauma, which are common underlying factors of addiction and mental health issues. EMDR has been deemed highly effective in trauma treatment by such respected institutions as the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association. Many people suffering from trauma who have been unresponsive to other approaches have improved with EMDR.
How EMDR Treatment Works
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing uses bilateral movements of the eyes to help the brain reprocess traumatic events. EMDR therapy typically follows several phases of treatment. These include:
Personal History – An EMDR therapist works with the client to determine what past traumatic event(s) are hindering them. The client is usually being triggered by present-day circumstances that bring up past pain.
Assessment – The EMDR clinician assesses the client’s trauma tolerance level. Reprocessing traumatic events can be emotionally trying and the therapist must determine if the client is ready to pay close attention to that part of their past yet. During this period, the therapist may teach the client relaxation techniques and other tools they can use both during and after eye movement therapy sessions to avoid negative re-traumatizing effects.
Identification and Reprocessing – While tracking a stimulus with his or her eyes – typically the movement of a finger or light – the client recalls an image or situation that evokes negative emotions related to trauma or other issues. They will also identify a positive attribute of themselves related to the event. For example, if a client was neglected or abused as a child they might focus on the resiliency or survivor skills that allowed them to persevere despite these difficulties. The goal is to eventually transform the negative beliefs and feelings related to an event into more healthy, positive feelings.
This process takes place over a number of sessions. Once positive feelings and beliefs are established, the therapist may ask the client to focus on these when exploring difficult situations and emotions. Throughout the process, the therapist might also ask the client to pay attention to bodily sensations (for example, muscle tightness, short breaths or self-soothing behaviors). These signs help guide the process.
Closure – At the end of each eye movement therapy session, the therapist helps guide the client to a sense of closure so they do not return to everyday life in an emotionally uncomfortable or vulnerable state. This may be achieved by having them recall the positive feelings noted in the identification and reprocessing phase, or practicing mindfulness or other techniques that bring them back to the present moment.
Review – At the beginning of each session, therapist and client will review the previous session and discuss anything that has come up between the sessions. This helps the therapist determine how much work still needs to be done on a particular issue and when to move forward with a different issue.
The number of EMDR therapy sessions depends on each client and their particular issues. Some people experience a decrease in symptoms in just three sessions while others will require around 12 sessions to achieve the maximum benefit.
To learn more about EMDR, call 844-876-5568