Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement and Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder may continue to have intense flashbacks, nightmares, anger and fear, extreme sadness, and may start to have problems in relationships. Because EMDR works to target a person’s trauma and related symptoms it has also been shown effective for other diagnoses such as depression and anxiety.
What to expect in an EMDR therapy session: During an EMDR therapy session, therapists will lead clients in different eye movement sequences; this can also be paired with hand-tapping and/or audio stimulation. The role of rapid eye movement is to enhance the information processing center of the brain and forge new links between a traumatic memory and a more adaptive memory. Once these links are formed, the brain’s information processing system can move forward towards healing from the trauma.
There are 8 Phases to EMDR therapy:
History Taking: The client and therapist will work together to identify and target a traumatic memory for treatment. Targets could also include current stressors and future goals. For example, if a client had a recent argument at work, an EMDR therapist can help you to process this as it may relate to your history or future goals.
Introduction to EMDR: The therapist will take time to explain EMDR therapy and treatment.
Assessment: During the assessment phase, the targeted memory will be activated during session, while being supported by your therapist. The therapist and client will then work to identify the memory components such as the image, cognition, affect, and body sensation.
Desensitization and reprocessing: The client will be asked to focus on the traumatic memory while using different eye movement sequences or other external stimuli.
Incorporating a positive belief of self: This phase works to strengthen more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving to help you heal from the past and live your best present day life.
Body Scan: During this phase, the client will be asked to observe the physical response of their body while thinking of the traumatic memory along with the more adaptive belief identified in the prior phase. The client will then let their therapist know if they are experiencing any residual stress.
Closure: If the processing is not complete during the session, your therapist will help you with specific strategies to help bring you back to an equilibrium as you move back into your day.
Re-Evaluation: During the Re-Evaluation phase, the therapist will evaluate the client’s current state, if treatment is being maintained, and if any other memories may have resurfaced.
EMDR therapy can be from 6-12 sessions per target memory; however, the timeline of therapy is determined based off the needs of each specific person. Therefore, some EMDR therapy can take place over the course of a few sessions while others benefit from more intensive treatment. EMDR does not require “therapy homework,” but often processing continues after the session ends.