Courtesy of EMDR International Association. https://www.emdria.org
What is EMDR?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is a powerful type of psychotherapy that helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress they are experiencing as a result of a trauma or disturbing life experiences. Someone who has experienced trauma can have difficulty processing this event and it can cause the brain to get “stuck” or “blocked” in its ability to process information. This “block” can cause great suffering by the person having to relive this trauma/disturbing event over and over again. This “block” can also effect how the person view themselves, their world around them and how they relate to other people.
How Does EMDR work?
The way in which EMDR therapy works appears to be very close to what happens naturally during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. Because of this, EMDR is considered a physiologically based therapy that can help people deal with trauma/disturbing events in a less distressing way by directly effecting the way the brain processes information.
EMDR helps the brain become “unblocked” which can allow healing to occur. Using detailed protocols and procedures a trained EMDR therapist is able to help their clients activate their own natural healing process which will allow their brain to once again process information normally and they will no longer relive the trauma/disturbing event. EMDR does not take memories away- a person will still remember the event but they will not be mentally, physically or emotionally disturbed by it.
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapeutic approach that incorporates eight phases of treatment and targets three time periods: past, present and future. Focus is given to past disturbing memories, current situations that cause distress and future actions. The goal for each session is to leave the client with a better understanding, healthy emotions, and a new perspective that will ultimately lead to healthy/helpful future behaviors/interactions.
Where is the proof?
In the past 30 years there has been so much research on EMDR therapy that it is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization and the Department of Defense as an effective form of treatment for trauma and other disturbing events. Worldwide, it is estimated that EMDR has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of emotional distress.
Given EMDR’s success rate with trauma, it is easy to see how EMDR therapy can also be effective in treating “everyday” memories that cause people to have low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, feelings of not mattering, etc. that bring someone into therapy.
Your EMDR trained therapist will first meet with you for one or more sessions to understand the nature of the problem and to decide if EMDR is an appropriate treatment. During this time, EMDR will be explained further and questions will be answered. Once it is agreed upon by client and therapist, EMDR therapy can begin. A typical session is 60-90 minutes. The individual life circumstances, will determine how many EMDR sessions are necessary.
What Happens Between Sessions?
After an EMDR session, there can be a sense of openness, relief or even euphoria. Some clients feel physically tired due to the emotional release that has occurred. This is all normal. Clients may experience unusual thoughts, vivid dreams that may or may not have any meaning. This is part of the releasing process and the way in which the brain is “cleaning house”. It should be noted that actually, unusual experiences during this time, indicate that EMDR therapy is working. It can be helpful to keep a journal to discuss thoughts, dreams, triggers, etc. with your therapist at the next session.