When you think of therapy, you probably envision the conventional setup.
Therapist and client sitting across from each other in a room, talking about the issues that are plaguing the client.
While talk therapy is certainly helpful, it’s important to know that therapy comes in many forms.
One of them being rapid eye movement.
You read that right. EMDR—which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing—is a scientifically-proven form of therapy that helps with many psychological issues and can be especially effective in treating trauma.
EMDR is also very effective in treating anxiety disorders, phobias, depression, in addition to PTSD.
It can be combined with other treatment modalities, such as CBT and Mindfulness.
In over 30 studies, 85-90% of PTSD patients were no longer symptomatic after three 90-minute EMDR sessions.
You don’t hear statistics like that every day.
In some studies, it has been found to be more effective than SSRI medication and it’s even endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the American Psychiatric Association (APA)!
EMDR has been used to effectively treat traumas such as child abuse, sexual assault, combat trauma, and even humiliation or harassment.
How EMDR Works
During EMDR, the therapist and client work together to identify target memories to focus on.
In addition to visual memories of the trauma, there is often a negative self-belief attached to the event.
For example, the client might believe, “I am unlovable” or “I am a weak person.”
The traumatic memory may continue to live on through dreams, flashbacks, or generalized anxiety.
EMDR involves bilateral stimulation with either rapid eye movement, touching, or auditory sounds.
It’s been found that this repeated desensitization technique re-processes the memory of the trauma and the negative beliefs associated with it.
EMDR can help you reprocess what happened to you and target other symptoms of the trauma as well, such as anxiety and depression.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the discomfort due to unprocessed memories, to teach self-regulation techniques to manage related anxiety, and to change negative self-perceptions into believing in your own sense of safety, control, and responsibility.
The EMDR Institute uses a helpful metaphor to explain its technique: EMDR healing works in a similar way to how our bodies heal after an injury.
After getting a cut or a deep wound, our body starts to repair itself.
However, there might be a “foreign object” that enters the wound, or you might repeatedly get injured at the same site, which makes it even harder for the wound to heal.
Once you are able to remove the “foreign object” so that you are not becoming continuously re-injured, your body can begin healing again.
This is the same way EMDR acts with our minds: Once we remove any barriers to our healing, our body can begin the process of recovery and transform the trauma into healing.
The Phases of EMDR
EMDR therapy involves eight phases in order to heal from psychological trauma.
In Phase 1, our therapist gets your complete history. It can happen in one or multiple sessions. Our therapists work with you to identify and recognize any memories that may have caused you distress in the past, and anything that might be causing you distress right now. You might even work together to identify skills that you would like to develop in the future.
In Phase 2, we focus on new ways of handling stress and begin developing a toolkit of effective coping skills. Our therapists will work with you to teach you any techniques you can use to reduce your stress in between your therapy sessions.
In Phases 3-6, you will acknowledge and identify three different things: “the vivid, visual image related to the [traumatic] memory,” a negative belief about yourself associated with that memory, and other related emotions and body sensations that come up surrounding the memory.
You will also be asked to identify a positive belief that you have about yourself. Your therapist will then guide you through bilateral stimulations, which can include tapping, listening to sounds, or eye movements. You will then be instructed to let your mind go and notice the sensations around you. This phase will be complete when you do not report any more distress when you think of your targeted memory.
Phase 7 is called closure, and this is when you will be asked to document, over the course of a week, any stressful situations that arose subsequent to the sessions. This will also help you implement the stress reduction techniques and coping skills you learned during Phase 2.
During Phase 8, you and your therapist review and highlight all the progress that you’ve made and prepare to implement any techniques you learned to effectively navigate situations that may arise in the future.
Our Therapy Methods
Therapy can successfully improve your life by helping you minimize your anxiety, identifying and changing underlying thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to your struggles, and providing you with strategies to decrease discomfort while restoring an overall sense of peace.
To experience true and lasting joy in our life, we must face and conquer our pain by healing our underlying trauma and confronting our fears.
EMDR is an evidence-based, scientifically-proven intervention that has been demonstrated by research to be effective in addressing anxiety disorders, phobias, depression, in addition to PTSD and various forms of abuse and trauma.
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