What Is EMDR Therapy

EMDR is a structured therapy that encourages the patient to focus briefly on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and PTSD symptoms. Ongoing research supports positive clinical outcomes showing EMDR therapy as a helpful treatment for disorders such as anxiety, depression, OCD, chronic pain, addictions, and other distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019). 

Overview of Experiencing EMDR Therapy

After the therapist and client agree that EMDR therapy is a good fit, the beginning sessions will involve discussing what the client wants to work on and improving the client’s ability to manage distress.

When ready for the next phases of EMDR therapy, the client will be asked to focus on a specific event. Attention will be given to a negative image, belief, emotion, and body feeling related to this event and then to a positive belief indicating the issue was resolved.

While the client focuses on the upsetting event, the therapist will begin sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps. The client will be guided to notice what comes to mind after each set. They may experience shifts in insight or changes in images, feelings, or beliefs regarding the event.

The client has complete control to stop the therapist at any point if needed. The sets of eye movements, sounds, or taps are repeated until the event becomes less disturbing.

EMDR therapy may be used within a standard talking therapy, as adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment.

How Long Does EMDR Therapy Take?

The goal of EMDR therapy is to completely process the traumatic experiences that are causing problems and to include new ones needed for full health. The amount of time it will take to complete EMDR treatment for traumatic experiences will depend upon the client’s history. Complete treatment of a single EMDR trauma target involves a three-pronged protocol to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture. The three prongs include:

  1. past memories
  2. present disturbance
  3. future actions

Although EMDR therapy may produce results more rapidly than other forms of therapy, speed is not the goal of therapy, and it is essential to remember that every client has different needs. For instance, one client may take weeks to establish sufficient feelings of trust (Phase 2), while another may proceed quickly through the first six phases of treatment only to reveal something even more important that needs treatment.

“Processing” in EMDR Therapy

“Processing” does not mean talking about a traumatic experience. “Processing” means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain and can guide you positively in the future.

The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings, and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences pushing you in the wrong direction. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.

Source: EMDRIA.ORG