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What is EMDR and How Can it be an Effective Therapeutic Treatment?

There are about 500 different types of psychotherapy, with new ones appearing on a fairly regular basis.


Emerging in the late ’80s, EMDR therapy is a relatively new concept that has been gaining a decent amount of attention for the last fifteen years or so. Since then, EMDR has become the heart of numerous investigations and research. But what is EMDR? And does it actually work?


What is EMDR?


EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s a phased psychotherapy technique, which is focused on relieving psychological tension and treating trauma.


How Does EMDR Work?


It is based on the idea that psychological symptoms occur when trauma or other negative experiences overwhelm the brain's natural ability to overcome them.


EMDR believes that the healing process of the brain can be reinforced by bilateral stimulation as the client re-experiences the trauma in the safe environment of the therapist's office.


In other words, EMDR treats trauma and other symptoms by reconnecting the traumatized person to elements of the traumatic experience (pictures, thoughts, emotions). However, this is done in a safe and methodical manner, enabling the brain's inherent healing processes to progress toward adaptive resolution.


Who Can EMDR Help?


Because of the extensive research that’s been put into exploring EMDR, it’s been found to have a beneficial effect on many psychological issues, especially those originating as a trauma response:

  • EMDR was found helpful in helping treat substance abuse and eating disorders

  • For patients with depression, EMDR can help reach full remission, a reduction in symptoms, and fewer relapses.

  • EMDR helped decrease delusions and negative symptoms in psychotic patients, and research participants reported less use of medication and mental health services.

  • Research has found that EMDR can help treat panic disorders as effectively as CBT.

What is the Process of EMDR Therapy?


EMDR therapy isn’t an overnight process. In fact, to go through the steps of EMDR, the treatment plan might require around 6 to 12 sessions, sometimes more, with a plan similar to the below:

  1. Assessment & Planning - Initially, the psychotherapist comes together with the patient to gain a better understanding of the type of traumatic symptoms that the patient suffers from, what triggers them, and potential memories that need to be addressed.

  2. Resourcing - This perhaps might be the core of EMDR therapy. In this step, the therapist educates the patient on different helpful techniques regarding how to deal with the stress that might come up during treatment.

  3. Assessment - In this step, the patient and therapist have a conversation regarding the memories and the specific trauma that the patient wants to overcome. This is also while discussing all the negative emotions, sensations, and thoughts that are triggered by this experience.

  4. Desensitization - The patient is instructed to concentrate on the negative thought, memory, or image. This occurs when the patient is being directed by bilateral stimulation (BLS), which may include precise eye movements, tapping, auditory tones, or blinking lights. Following that, the patient is instructed to name any negative ideas or sensations that arise.

  5. Installation - This step is where positive images and beliefs are installed to replace negative ones. This installation process happens through a repetition of the Bilateral Stimulation process.

  6. Body Scan – Where the psychotherapist works on identifying any physical sensations or pain that came along with the unpleasant memories

  7. Closure – This step includes acknowledging progress and suggesting techniques to maintain improvement

The steps of EMDR, while easily listed, are still an extensively emotional process and require a trained professional to perform this type of treatment. What EMDR basically does is take the volume knob of negative experiences and emotions, simply tuning them out. While things might seem slightly funny and different after EMDR therapy, it’s a good type of different, one that helps patients recognize their brain’s own strength, ability to protect itself, and to recover from traumatic experiences.


To find out if EMDR may be a useful tool in your own counseling journey, please contact Kaela today to schedule your consultation! Email: contact@kaelaraevance.com

 

Resources:

Hase, M., Balmaceda, U. M., Hase, A., Lehnung, M., Tumani, V., Huchzermeier, C., & Hofmann, A. (2015). Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy in the treatment of depression: a matched pairs study in an inpatient setting. Brain and behavior, 5(6), e00342. https://doi.org/10.1002/brb3.342

Perna, G., Sangiorgio, E., Grassi, M., & Caldirola, D. (2018). Commentary: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing for Treating Panic Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01061

Adams, R., Ohlsen, S., & Wood, E. (2020). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for the treatment of psychosis: a systematic review. European journal of psychotraumatology, 11(1), 1711349. https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2019.1711349

Gotter, A. (2022, January 11). Considering EMDR Therapy? What to Expect. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy#bottom-line

A. (2020, June 29). What is EMDR? EMDR Institute - EYE MOVEMENT DESENSITIZATION AND REPROCESSING THERAPY.https://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/

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