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What is EMDR?

What is EMDR?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short, is a psychotherapy that is used to treat people who have gone through emotional distress. This distress could have been the result of certain life experiences or a single event in the person’s life.

man looking outside through a windowAbout EMDR

Originally, the treatment was designed and developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro (1989) to curb the distress related to disturbing memories. The Adaptive Information Processing Model says that this kind of therapy examines and processes memories that cause trauma and adverse effects. The goal of EDMR therapy is to have the person reach a solution so that he or she can adapt and adjust to life.

EMDR is known to have had some success. Repeated studies have shown that using EDMR therapy in people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, benefits have been experienced in a quicker manner than with traditional therapeutic techniques. After the affected person is relieved of the stress, symptoms such as negative thoughts and physical arousal are also eliminated. As a result, the person learns how to adjust to their life despite the stress reactions they feel. The person can now cope effectively and move on with their life.

A fact that is extensively acknowledged is that emotional pain takes a very long time to heal. With Eye Movement Desensitization Processing, research has reported that people heal from psychological stress as much as they recover from physical injury. How EMDR works can be demonstrated with a simple example. When you get a cut on your leg, your body responds automatically so that healing starts and the wound closes. When a foreign object touches the wound, or you get injured at the same spot again, the wound gets infected once more. Once the object is removed, healing occurs again. The object is akin to a mental block that has to be eliminated. Typically, the brain works to promote positive mental health. In the case of stress, the brain’s normal information processing is interfered with or blocked.

How is it done?

two women sitting across from each other while receiving therapyDuring the EMDR therapeutic process, the therapist exposes the client to material that is emotionally disturbing. This is given in brief intervals and follow a prescribed sequence. Simultaneously, the client has to focus on an external stimulus. The external stimulus can range from hand-tapping by the therapist or some other audio-based stimulus. The therapist may also use directed lateral eye movements.

Through this, a blocked stressful memory will be ignited, forcing the person to acknowledge its presence and work through it with the help of the therapist. In this way, new associations with the memory can be formed and this will aid in the adaptation and adjustment of the client. Information is processed and insights are given attention. A new learning process occurs and the person feels like a burden is lifted.

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing uses an approach that is triple-pronged:

  • Past trauma-causing events that are the reason for current stress are processed. This is done by forming new associations with information so that the person can adjust or adapt.
  • The present context that leads to stress is a targeted area and internal and external causes are desensitized.
  • Imaginary scenarios of events in the future are used, so that the client can acquire adaptive skills for optimal functioning.

EMDR begins with the therapist taking note of the client’s history, after which the therapist instructs the clients in methods to handle stressful memories. In the next three phases, the therapist specifically targets a stressful life experience and the actual EMDR therapy goes into action. In the last two phases of treatment, closure is the goal. The therapist will ask the client to keep a diary during the week that follows. If any negativity arises, the client must note it down and think of calming processes he or she has learned during therapy. In the final phase, the client and therapist examine the progress of the sessions. This phase is all about related historical events, current circumstances and future contexts that will require responses on the client’s part.

Does it work?

Stock image of couples counselingResearch shows that, 84% to 94% of people who have had a single traumatic life experience and faced extreme stress as a result, no longer had it. Furthermore, this stress-free mind was achieved in only a few sessions of the therapy – in some cases, three sessions, lasting 90 minutes each. Other studies have found that people who had been through several circumstances of stress no longer had post-traumatic stress disorder. These people had undergone six sessions of 50 minutes each.

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is commonly seen in war veterans. In a study with war veterans as subjects, 77% were relieved of stress symptoms due to Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. War veterans took twelve sessions, but at the end of it, the therapy took a load off their shoulders. They found that they could sleep better, had a more positive outlook on life and were free of nightmares that had plagued them earlier.

A lot of research has been conducted on EMDR therapy. Psychotherapists and researchers alike have recognized it as an effective device in the treatment of stress disorders and in people who have undergone single-time trauma. The World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association have officially given it the credit it deserves. Clients report positive results through EDMR therapy.

Arranging EMDR Therapy

By treating memories that are their reasons for feelings of low self-esteem, powerlessness, and other negative emotions, EDMR therapy results in clients leading productive lives after the therapy is completed. It is easy to find and schedule an appointment with one of our therapists and counselors that specialize in EMDR.