What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from different treatment approaches.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy and uses a technique called bilateral stimulation to repeatedly activate opposite sides of the brain. Therapists often use eye movements to facilitate the bilateral stimulation. These eye movements mimic the period of sleep referred to as rapid eye movement or REM sleep, and this portion of sleep is frequently considered to be the time when the mind processes the recent events in the person’s life.
EMDR seems to help the brain reprocess the trapped memories is such a way that normal information processing is resumed. Therapists often use EMDR to help clients uncover and process beliefs that developed as the result of relational traumas or childhood abuse and/or neglect. For a more detailed explanation please visit EMDR Institute, Inc.
EMDR Therapy Procedure at Transitioning Through Change
When utilizing EMDR therapy I incorporate elements from different therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy, and bilateral stimulation. The treatment here at Transitioning Through Change typically involves the following steps:
History and Treatment Planning: The therapist gathers information about the individual’s history and identifies specific traumatic memories or distressing experiences that will be targeted during the therapy.
Preparation: The therapist helps the individual develop skills to manage distress and teaches relaxation and grounding techniques to ensure they can handle any emotional or physical discomfort that may arise during the sessions.
Assessment: The assessment phase involves identifying the target memory or event that will be the focus of the EMDR treatment. The individual is guided to identify the negative beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations associated with the target memory. They also identify a positive belief that they would like to have in place of the negative belief.
Desensitization: The individual focuses on the traumatic memory while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation. This stimulation can be achieved through eye movements, pulses, taps, or auditory tones, guided by the therapist. The bilateral stimulation is thought to facilitate the brain’s natural processing of the traumatic memory, reducing its emotional intensity.
Reprocessing: As the desensitization phase progresses, the individual’s distress and emotional intensity related to the target memory typically reduce. In the reprocessing phase, the therapist guides the individual to explore and integrate more positive and adaptive thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. This involves fostering cognitive shifts and replacing negative beliefs with more realistic and empowering ones.
Installation: In this phase, the therapist assists in strengthening the positive belief that the individual identified during the assessment phase. The positive belief is reinforced and “installed” as a more deeply held belief, promoting emotional healing and resilience.
Closure: At the end of each session, the therapist ensures the individual is in a stable state. The individual is provided with techniques for self-calming and emotional regulation to ensure they feel grounded and safe outside of therapy sessions.
Reevaluation: In subsequent sessions, the therapist checks the progress made and revisits any unresolved issues or memories that require further processing.
Who Can Benefit from EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy is a versatile and effective treatment approach that can benefit a wide range of individuals who have experienced various forms of psychological distress. While it is commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), EMDR therapy has shown promising results in treating other conditions as well. Here are some of the situations and populations that can benefit from EMDR therapy:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
EMDR therapy is widely recognized as an effective treatment for PTSD. It can help individuals who have experienced traumatic events such as accidents, natural disasters, physical or sexual abuse, combat exposure, or other life-threatening experiences.
EMDR therapy can be beneficial for individuals with trauma-related disorders beyond PTSD, including acute stress disorder, complex trauma, dissociative disorders, and adjustment disorders.
EMDR therapy has shown positive results in treating various anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety disorder (SAD), and specific phobias.
While primarily known for its effectiveness in treating trauma-related conditions, EMDR therapy can also be helpful for individuals experiencing symptoms of depression. It addresses not only the traumatic memories but also the negative beliefs and emotions associated with them.
EMDR therapy has been utilized to help individuals in high-performance fields, such as athletes, artists, and business professionals, who may experience performance anxiety or have blocks that hinder their optimal functioning.
Grief and Loss
EMDR therapy can assist individuals in processing and healing from the emotional pain associated with grief and loss, enabling them to move forward in their healing journey.
Phobias and Fears
EMDR therapy has been effective in treating specific phobias and fears by desensitizing distressing memories and replacing them with more adaptive beliefs and emotions.
Self-Esteem and Personal Growth
EMDR therapy can also be beneficial for individuals who struggle with low self-esteem, negative self-beliefs, and a lack of confidence. It helps reprocess negative experiences and fosters personal growth and self-empowerment.
It is important to note that EMDR therapy is a specialized form of treatment and should be conducted by a trained and licensed mental health professional experienced in this approach. At Transitioning Through Change, I can assess your specific needs and determine if EMDR therapy is an appropriate treatment option for you.
Adaptive Information Processing in EMDR Therapy
Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) is a fundamental concept in EMDR therapy. It forms the theoretical framework that guides the treatment process. EMDR therapy aims to facilitate adaptive information processing to help individuals heal from traumatic experiences and other distressing memories.
What is Adaptive Information Processing?
Adaptive Information Processing refers to the brain’s natural ability to effectively process and integrate experiences, emotions, and memories in a way that promotes well-being and psychological health. When a person experiences a traumatic event or distressing memory, the information may become inadequately processed and stored, leading to unresolved emotional disturbances and negative beliefs.
Understanding Memory Networks
In EMDR therapy, memories are seen as interconnected networks of information. Each memory network contains elements such as images, thoughts, emotions, physical sensations, and beliefs associated with a specific experience. When a distressing memory is activated, it can trigger emotional and physiological reactions, often causing distress or dysfunction in daily life.
How EMDR Therapy Facilitates Adaptive Processing
During EMDR therapy, bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, pulses, taps, or auditory tones, is introduced to activate both sides of the brain. This bilateral stimulation appears to mimic the natural processing that occurs during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, promoting the integration of distressing memories into more adaptive memory networks.
Reprocessing and Integration
As the bilateral stimulation is applied, individuals are guided to focus on the targeted distressing memory. This process stimulates the brain’s information processing system, allowing new associations and connections to be made. Over time, the distressing memory can be reprocessed, and negative emotions, beliefs, and sensations associated with it can be replaced with more positive and adaptive ones.
Resolution and Healing
Through the reprocessing and integration of distressing memories, individuals often experience a reduction in emotional distress and symptoms related to the targeted issue. EMDR therapy aims to bring about lasting resolution and healing by fostering adaptive information processing and promoting the development of more positive self-perceptions and coping strategies.
Generalization to Other Memories
One of the strengths of EMDR therapy is its potential to facilitate generalization. As individuals experience positive changes in the targeted memory, they often notice improvements in related memories or associated aspects of their lives. This ripple effect can lead to broader healing and increased well-being.
Advantages of EMDR Therapy
– Effective treatment for PTSD and trauma-related conditions.
– Efficient process with shorter treatment durations.
– Comprehensive approach addressing symptoms and underlying causes.
– Reduced reliance on verbal expression.
– Generalization of positive effects to other aspects of life.
Disadvantages of EMDR Therapy
– The intensity of emotional experience during sessions.
– Need for specialized training for therapists.
– Not suitable for everyone or all mental health conditions.
– Potential cost and accessibility challenges.
– Remember, it is essential to discuss these points with a qualified mental health professional to determine if EMDR therapy is suitable for your needs.
What does EMDR help?
EMDR had been originally established as helpful for PTSD, although it’s been proven useful for treatment in the following conditions:
- Panic Attacks
- Complicated Grief
- Dissociative Orders
- Disturbing Memories
- Pain Disorders
- Performance Anxiety
- Stress Reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical Abuse
- Body Dysmorphic Disorders
- Personality Disorders
None of the above symptoms or experiences fit you?
Do you experience distressing emotions that appear to you, and perhaps to others, to be excessive given the current situation? Do you tend to be highly reactive to certain triggers? Is there one or more dysfunctional belief that you believe about yourself that on an intellectual level you know is not true?
If so, you may still be a good candidate for EMDR therapy.
Contact me today for a free phone consultation to see if EMDR might help you release what no longer serves you.