Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR): in the simplest terms, EMDR is a form of psychotherapy that helps people to address the emotional distress of disturbing life experiences. Studies have shown that EMDR can deliver the same results of other forms of psychotherapy on a faster timeline.
EMDR works by exposing the patient to disturbing material in brief, sequential doses while focusing on lateral eye movements as directed by a therapist. A variety of other stimuli may also be used, such as hand tapping or audio stimulation. Though this seemingly simple process, the patient’s own internal mental healing system is activated, allowing them to accelerate the intellectual and emotional processes involved in processing trauma.
EMDR’s powerful effects are not limited to severe trauma, and the process is also effective at addressing the root causes of other feelings of inadequacy that can lead people to seek therapy.
Studies have demonstrated that EMDR can be strikingly effective:
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has been shown to be addressed in over 84% of single trauma victims in only three 90-minute sessions. A study by Kaiser Permanente found that 100% of single trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after just six 50-minute sessions. EMDR is even effective in treating multiple trauma victims – the same Kaiser Permanente study found that 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after six 50-minute sessions, while another study found 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
Studies such as these have led organizations ranging from the World Health Organization and Department of Defense to recognize it as an effective form of treatment for trauma.
EMDR consists of a variety of phases:
First, the client’s history is taken, and potential targets for EMDR processing are identified.
Then, the client is provided with coping tools and techniques to use during (and in between) sessions. Once the client has an adequate coping toolkit, the client identifies various negative emotions, sensations, and a vivid image relating to the target memory. In addition, the client is instructed to identify a positive belief.
The client then focuses on the negative thought, image, or emotions while EMDR processing is conducted using stimulation (eye movements, sounds, or taps).
Following the stimulation, the client allows their mind to go blank and then notice whatever comes into mind. Whatever the client reports as coming to mind will inform the next focus of attention. This process is then repeated numerous times per session. Once the client no longer reports distress relating to the memory, they are then directed to think of the positive belief previously identified. This process is repeated for any additional distressing events that require processing.
The final steps involve the client keeping a log for the week, both in order to document any related traumatic material that may arise and to remind the client of the coping tools that they learned.
Finally, progress is examined and reviewed.
EMDR offers several benefits over cognitive behavioral therapy for patients, including that it does not require a detailed description of the traumatic event, extended exposure, direct challenging of beliefs, or homework.
Nancy is currently offering therapy sessions through Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to make healing treatment accessible to all amidst challenging times.
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