What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was initially created as an empirically validated treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and over time EMDR has become an effective method of treatment for other mental health conditions such as trauma, anxiety, panic disorder, troubling memories, insomnia, chronic pain and many other psychological problems. Empirical research has shown significant improvement in patient that suffer from other conditions such as grief and loss, fear, major traumas (i.e., hurricane, emotional and/or sexual abuse), depression, interpersonal problems, worrying and other personality problems.

It was discovered by psychologist, Francine Shapiro, PhD in 1987. She discovered that pairing distressing memories with eye movement, makes the distressing memory neutral memory. During EMDR therapy, the therapist finds the upsetting memories and the negative core beliefs associated with those memories.

How Does EMDR Work?

Through bilateral stimulation of the brain, EMDR allows the REprocessing the information that have been locked in the brain by the experience of trauma or a specific event (i.e., break up, emotional and physical abuse, disasters). The bilateral stimulation allows the brain to unlock the information and REprocess the memories from trauma in a safe and secure environment (therapist office) and assign a new meaning to that memory. EMDR incorporates somatic, emotional, cognitive and narrative elements, and facilitates accelerated change of client dysfunctional patterns by decreasing obsessive and disruptive thoughts about traumatic and sometimes not so traumatic but sad and upsetting thoughts.

What Happens During EMDR therapy sessions?

EMDR has 8 phase therapy approach including:

  1.  Assessment and history gathering including identifying client issues and creating treatment plan.
  2. Preparation tools are developed
  3. Assessment: The client bring to mind the detail of the specific event through structured set of questions
    Phase 3 to 7 typically happens in one EMDR therapy session which is focused on Reprocessing specific issue or memory.
  4. Desensitization: Therapist facilitates the eye movement or other form of stimulation until the memory becomes neutral and positive meaning is associated with the emory for example “I am Ok” or “I did the best I could in that moment”.
  5. Installation: Installs and Reinforces positive belief and experience.
  6. Body Scan: Therapist makes sure the trauma memory is clear on the body level.
  7. Closure: client comments and reminders.
  8. Reevaluation: Evaluating client’s progress and determining next step in treatment.

The number of the EMDR therapy sessions varies depending on the present problems, life circumstances, and the extent of past trauma. EMDR can be integrated with other treatment strategies or use as therapy by itself.

Is EMDR Only Effective for PTSD?

The answer is no. Even though EMDR originally was developed to treat patients suffering from PTSD particularly veterans, trauma comes in different shapes and forms and EMDR can be effective for any condition in which trauma is involved. Trauma does not occur only in major events such as war, even the most insignificant facial and verbal nuances can cause trauma for some people. Natural disasters, grief and mourning, school bullying, sibling bullying, robbery, assault, car accident, etc., can cause trauma and EMDR can be an effective modality of treatment for these conditions.

Is EMDR effective for pain management?

Yes, substantial number of research studies have shown that EMDR is a reasonable modality of treatment for clients who suffer from chronic pain.