What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy and how can it help? First, let’s start with how trauma works.
Trauma can leave you feeling stuck in the same exhausting and painful cycle — one which inhibits you from moving forward in life because of the terrible experience you have gone through.
There are many types of counseling services and therapy that can help you to deal with trauma, all of which are effective in their own way.
But Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of therapy that can speed up the process of healing. Let’s look at how EMDR works and how it can help.
What Is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing?
EMDR is a type of therapy that can help you heal from the emotions and symptoms resulting from a traumatic experience. It uses external stimuli such as lights or sounds to heal severe emotional stress caused by painful memories. The therapy heals the brain by allowing it to process painful thoughts and properly store traumatic memories.
Research has shown that through EMDR therapy, patients benefit from the advantages of therapy in a shorter time span. What can take years in a therapy session to heal, can heal in a number of EMDR sessions.
Think of the mind healing as similar to how a body heals, explain researchers at the EMDR Institute. When our body is recovering from physical trauma, we protect the wound from external objects so it can heal fast without causing ourselves pain.
The same goes for psychological traumas through EMDR.
Our brain naturally moves towards healing. However, a trauma can present imbalance or blockage in our mental process, through the constant reliving of the painful experience. EMDR will enable you to remove these mental roadblocks to trigger your mind’s natural process of healing.
How Are EMDR Sessions Set Up?
The Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment is an “eight-phase treatment” with each phase entailing one or a couple of sessions.
Phase 1: Phase one is when you and your therapist determine the memories that should be targeted through EMDR. During this phase, your therapist will determine whether you are ready for this treatment. This is the phase where your treatment plan will be set too.
Phase 2: This phase will see the therapist arming you with the right ways to deal with emotional distress. The therapist will teach you techniques to help you alleviate stress so you will learn how to cope with the emotional distress that you will experience during EMDR. The goal of EMDR therapy “is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.”
Phase 3-6: Here, EMDR procedure is implemented through different sets of stimulations. It’s here that your therapist will ask you to recall the images that relate to your trauma, negative thoughts you associate with yourself and emotions and physical sensations that are related to the trauma. While you are recalling these memories and thoughts, your therapist will be moving her own hand in your line of vision. At this stage, your therapist will also help you to find a positive affirmation about yourself.
The sets of stimulation happen a number of times during the session and you can experience distress during this time. The therapist will be there to help you stay on track. Moreover, the positive affirmation is another key component to helping you move forward.
Phase 7: This stage is for you to find closure. At this point, your therapist will ask you to keep a journal and write down any thoughts or memories that might crop up.
Phase 8: This session will have you and your therapist observe the progress you have made so far through EMDR and determine how you can move forward from this treatment.
When Is EMDR Considered Successful?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is considered successful when thoughts about the traumatic experience shift from negative to positive.
For example, a victim of sexual assault who experiences fear and self-loathing as a result of the trauma can change her thoughts about the experience to, “I have survived a terrible moment in my life because I am strong.”
Accordingly, EMDR does not suppress your traumatic memories. Rather, it helps you to associate a positive thought with a dark memory.
What Kinds of Trauma Is EMDR Therapy Used For?
From sexual abuse to heartbreak, difficult divorces and PTSD in military members, EMDR therapy proves to be beneficial. This therapy has garnered “worldwide recognition as an effective treatment of trauma” leading many to believe that EMDR can also be used to heal “everyday” memories. These include people with problems of low self-esteem and inferiority complex for instance.
Why Should You Consider EMDR?
Research studies continually prove the effectiveness of EMDR for patients. In one study, 84% to 90% of single trauma victims no longer experienced PTSD after three 90 minute EMDR sessions. There are more studies, including the one showing how 77% of war veterans no longer experienced PTSD after 12 EMDR sessions.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is not a way to block your pain or to forget about it. It is a form of therapy that will help you unblock and see the experience through a positive filter, so that you can break the cycle and move forward from your trauma.
See If EMDR Therapy Is Right for You…
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