What Is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a highly effective form of therapy that allows people to resolve core trauma. By identifying the relationship between negative self-beliefs, bodily sensations, and triggering experiences, clients using EMDR can tap into the brain’s natural healing capabilities to neutralize painful or distressing memories.
The History Of EMDR
EMDR was initially developed as a treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980s. Dr. Shapiro discovered the concept of EMDR therapy by paying attention to the ways in which rapid eye movements correlated to the sense of physical distress she felt when recalling a particular memory.
As she developed EMDR, it became a highly structured model of therapy used to address trauma-related issues of all kinds. In fact, research shows that close to 90 percent of single-incident trauma survivors no longer experienced symptoms of PTSD after three EMDR treatment sessions (while 77 percent of multiple-trauma survivors showed a reduction in symptoms after six sessions).
Aside from PTSD, EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment for a wide range of emotionally charged experiences, including anxiety, stress, depression, low self-esteem, and significant life transitions, among others. Furthermore, EMDR is especially effective for those working in high-stress, critical situations, including First Responders.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing addresses the emotional impact that traumatic events have on our psyches. For those of us struggling with strong responses, negative associations, lingering discomfort, or “big” emotions following a difficult experience, EMDR promotes healing on a deep level.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR treatment is ordinarily made up of eight phases as follows:
- Phases 1 – 3: history taking, building trust and a strong therapeutic relationship, and understanding the impact of trauma on a client’s life
- Phase 4: focusing on an image/target associated with the trauma while simultaneously using tapping, side-to-side eye movements, or auditory cues (known as bilateral stimulation) to rewire the brain’s emotional response to the memory
- Phase 5: strengthening preferred positive beliefs to replace negative associations
- Phase 6: assessing physical response and any residual distress as the memory becomes processed through repetition
- Phases 7 – 8: reviewing progress and identifying future targets
In essence, EMDR repeats the process of bilateral stimulation to redirect stored trauma so it can be thoroughly processed. Using this approach, clients experience newfound emotional awareness and an ability to cope with mental, emotional, and physiological pain.
How Does EMDR Differ From Other Treatment Approaches?
Beyond being a particularly quick treatment method, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is often considered a very gentle, trauma-informed therapy. Whereas many conventional behavioral and psychoanalytical techniques require a deep discussion of trauma, EMDR is generally nonverbal in that it does not require clients to discuss their trauma at length. Rather, it relies on the innate capacity of the brain to heal and direct itself so that clients no longer feel distressed when recalling a difficult experience.
My Approach To Therapy Using EMDR
As a therapist trained through the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), I believe in the tremendous healing quality of this method and adhere to the utmost clinical standards when using it in treatment. Having seen the transformational healing qualities EMDR has had on the lives of my clients, I can attest to its effectiveness.
In addition to using EMDR in therapy, I will likely use other methods to aid the healing process. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) will help narrow down the thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic or distressing experience being processed through EMDR. And I may also view symptoms through a relational, attachment-focused lens that will ultimately lead to a sense of trust and repair in the counseling process.
EMDR is an approach to therapy that ensures maximal results for those who use it. By addressing the beliefs and experiences at the core of emotional pain, true and lasting healing can take place.
You Can Heal Core Wounds