What is EMDR?
Our Brains and Distressing Events
Our brains respond to stressful situations with flight, fight, or freeze. Many times our brains can process a difficult experience and we can move past it. But if our brain gets stuck, every time the distressing memory is triggered, our brain goes back into that flight, fight or freeze mode.
Sometimes we are completely unaware of what the trigger is. We just feel like we’re back in that moment when the event occurred. We feel like the trauma is as powerful today as it was when it happened. Triggers can be anything our senses pick up that our brain connects to the trauma or distressing event. It might be a smell, a touch, a sound, a place, a song, or a vast array of other things. When our brain senses that trigger, it reactivates the response of flight, fight, or freeze.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR is a therapy that stimulates activity in the brain using eye movements, alternating sounds, or tapping. This process activates the brain, allowing it to get unstuck. It speeds the healing of unprocessed memories, without the need to discuss all the specific details of the distressing event. In most cases, it resolves trauma memories quicker than with talk therapy alone.
What Issues Can Be Treated with EMDR?
There are many issues that can be effectively treated with EMDR. Some of the issues include:
- Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
- Depression and bipolar disorders
- Grief and loss
- PTSD and other trauma and stress-related issues
- Sexual assault
- Sleep disturbance
- Violence and abuse
How Can EMDR Help You?
Do you find that you continually react negatively to situations? Maybe you get angry, anxious, defensive, or jumpy. These are responses to a trigger. When you react to a trigger, your brain is reacting in a way it did when you had a similar experience (i.e. responding to someone’s raised voice, as you responded to your mom yelling at you when you were 6 years old).
EMDR helps your brain connect your current situations to the memories that they trigger. It then processes that stuck memory so that it is less disturbing and no longer causes negative reactions. This can bring significant relief from depression, anxiety, phobias, stress, and many other issues.
EMDR Therapy Has Eight Phases
Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning
During your initial session, I will take a thorough history and create a treatment plan. Over the first few sessions, we will make note of the particular traumas that need to be reprocessed.
Phase 2: Preparation
I will explain the process of EMDR, answer your questions, and give you some coping skills for handling the distress that may arise during reprocessing.
Phase 3: Assessment
We will select an event to reprocess. We will determine the worst image that represents the event and the negative cognition you believe about yourself. We will also select a positive belief you would rather believe. We will note emotions and body sensations you are experiencing as you look at the distressing event. Finally, you will rate how distressing the memory feels and how believable the positive cognition feels.
Phase 4: Desensitization
This is where the magic begins to happen. We will use bilateral stimulation (BLS) while focusing on the image with the negative cognition. In the office, I use small buzzers that you will hold in your hands. If we meet virtually, I will have you tap on each side of your body. You will begin notice new thoughts, emotions, and sensations around the event, as the distress gradually disappears.
Phase 5: Installation
You will internalize a positive belief to associate with the event. We will strengthen that belief until it feels completely true.
Phase 6: Body Scan
While focusing on the negative image, I will have you scan your body for any disturbance. We will use BLS until any disturbance disappears.
Phase 7: Closure
At the end of each session we will make sure that you return to a state of calm. If the event was not completely reprocessed, we will put those memories away until we are ready to finish processing them.
Phase 8: Reevaluation
At the beginning of the next session we will check the previously processed memories. We want to make sure that the distress is low and the positive cognition still feels completely true. If this is the case, we will select the next target and repeat phases 3-8.
We will continue to reprocess targeted memories until you feel like they are no longer distressing. We will also process current triggers and plan for future success.
Is There Scientific Evidence for the Effectiveness of EMDR?
Extensive research has reported the effectiveness of EMDR in the treatment of trauma and many other issues. EMDR therapists have gone through rigorous training and supervision to effectively use EMDR with their clients. Please watch the video below which talks about the effectiveness of EMDR with a variety of client issues.
Rachele is a Certified EMDR Therapist.
I have sought training and supervision to become the best possible EMDR therapist I can be. I am a Certified EMDR Therapist and a member of EMDRIA, the EMDR International Association.
Certification requirements include completion of an EMDRIA approved training program in EMDR therapy, a minimum of 50 clinical sessions in which EMDR was utilized, and 20 hours of consultation in EMDR by an Approved Consultant. To maintain the credential, Certified EMDR Therapists must complete 12 hours of continuing education in EMDR every two years.
Try EMDR Therapy for Yourself!
Reach out today to discuss how this amazing therapy could help transform your life.