Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, or EMDR, is a set of standardized protocols that incorporate elements from many different treatment approaches, but is a treatment approach all of its own. It has been researched extensively and proven effective for the treatment of a variety of difficulties. EMDR has come a long way since the developer Dr. Francine Shapiro’s famous walk through the park, where she realized the benefits of eye movements as it decreased her reactions to distressing memories. Many people only focus on one aspect of the protocol, the desensitization that occurs through the use of eye movements or other back and forth stimulations. However, there is much more to EMDR than that one phase, actually there are eight phases of EMDR treatment. Moreover, EMDR treats more than just trauma.
What Issues Can EMDR Treat? (A recap from last week’s post)
EMDR is used to treat a variety of mental health issues including:
- – Panic attacks
- – Complicated grief
- – Dissociative disorders
- – Disturbing memories
- – Phobias
- – Pain disorders/Chronic Pain
- – Performance anxiety
- – Stress reduction
- – Addictions
- – Sexual and/or Physical abuse
- – Body dysmorphic disorders
- – Personality Disorders
How Exactly Does EMDR Work?
It appears that EMDR has a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. It’s easiest to explain with a specific example so let’s focus on trauma although EMDR is proven to be effective with many other issues. It’s first indication was in the successful treatment of decreasing emotional reactions to traumatic memories and since then has evolved to address many other issues. To explain further, let’s use trauma as an example;
EMDR is very beneficial to someone who has experienced a trauma, as their brain cannot process information as it normally does.
To these people, a moment in time becomes “stuck” in their minds, and they experience the trauma, the sounds, smells and images over and over again. This, in turn, effects how they see the world around them and relate to other people.
After a sequence of successful EMDR sessions, the brain can once again process information normally, and the person no longer relives the trauma. While they still remember that the event happened, they are not physically, mentally or emotionally upset by it.
One thing many people find interesting about EMDR is that it appears to be very similar to what occurs naturally during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. For this reason, EMDR can be considered a physiologically based therapy that helps individuals deal with distressing events in a new and less disturbing way.
What are EMDR Sessions Like?
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates eight phases of treatment. How long it takes an individual to experience benefits of this therapy depends on their personal history.
Treatment typically targets three different areas: past memories, present disturbance, and future actions. The goal of this treatment is to process information and experiences differently. Each session aims to leave the patient with healthy emotions, understanding, and fresh perspectives that will ultimately lead to healthy and useful future behaviors and interactions.
How Long Does it Take EMDR to Work?
It is often helpful to have one or two sessions with the individual to fully understand the nature of their problem to determine if EMDR therapy will be an appropriate treatment. During these sessions, the therapist will answer any questions the prospective patient may have about EMDR. Once the therapist and individual agree EMDR is the right way to go, they will embark on a journey through the eight phases of treatment.
Sessions typically last between 45 and 90 minutes. How many sessions will be required will be based on the type of problem, personal circumstances and the degree of the trauma or symptoms. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring EMDR treatment, please contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.