In 1987, Francine Shapiro, a psychologist, developed a different psychotherapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing or EMDR therapy. It has recently become a standard treatment alternative for people primarily suffering from trauma, PTSD, panic, or anxiety. Francine developed EMDR therapy initially for relieving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Still, medical practitioners now use it to treat different situations such as pain management, test anxiety, and phobias.
EMDR therapy helps people recover from the emotional distress and symptoms that are caused by upsetting life experiences. It is an organized type of therapy that stimulates the patient to focus on the traumatic memory briefly while undergoing bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements) simultaneously. EMDR does not use any medications or talk therapy but instead uses the patient’s rhythmic, rapid eye movements to diminish the strength of any emotional memories of any previous traumatic occurrences.
Studies indicate that people who use EMDR therapy can get the same benefits as those of psychotherapy. Most people presume that it takes very long for one to recover from emotional pain that is severe. However, is a clear indication that the mind can heal from emotional stress the same way the body can recover from physical injuries through EMDR therapy
How EMDR Works
EMDR helps individuals process traumatic information safely until it does not disrupt their lives psychologically. It has eight stages of treatments concentrating on the future, the present, and the past. EMDR is made to split any connections the individual has with specific symptoms and situations. Every phase aims to help the patient work through any trauma and emotional distress while equipping them with the skills to deal with stress.
In the first phase of EMDR, the clinician plans the patient’s treatment and gets a detailed client history. This history may include past experiences, events, painful memories, and current stresses. The therapist and the client then work out a treatment plan targeting specific incidents or memories. Initially, the work may be focused on the patient’s childhood. If the client has a particular condition, such as a panic disorder, they could be asked specific details regarding their panic attacks.
This EMDR phase is known as preparation, and it involves the client and the therapists developing a therapeutic relationship. The therapist helps the patient establish reasonable expectations with the treatment and train the client on various self-control methods to assist in dealing with anxiety and stress. The therapist will also explain the client’s symptoms and help them understand how to process their trauma actively.
Phase 3 to 6
During these phases of EMDR, the client and a therapist use EMDR therapy methods to identify target memories and process them. The client identifies the three following things:
- An intense visual image associated with the target memory
- A negative self-belief
- Any bodily sensations or emotions related to the target memory
The therapist also helps the client identify and rate a positive belief and the intensity of any negative emotions. Afterward, the client is asked to concentrate on the body sensations, the negative thought, and the image while experiencing EMDR processing simultaneously using bilateral stimulation. Sets of bilateral stimulation may comprise tones, taps, and eye movements. The length and type of these sets will vary based on each client, and he or she will be asked to pay attention to whatever happens immediately.
After each simulation set, the therapist asks the client to clear his/her mind and to take note of any sensation, memory, image, feeling, or thought that comes through. Based on the client’s report, the therapist will determine the next course of action. The repeated simulation sets are coupled with focused attention multiple times all through the session. The therapist will follow the necessary procedures to help get the patient back on the path if they have a problem advancing or become distressed.
Suppose the client does not have any feelings of distress associated with the target memory. In that case, they are asked to think of any favorable positive beliefs they identified at the start of the session. The client can modify this positive belief if need be and fixate on it next time they experience any distressing events.
This EMDR phase is all about closure. The therapist talks with the client about the positive steps self-control methods taken and how to continue using them daily to keep the client balanced. The therapist also explains what the client should expect between EMDR sessions and maintains a log of any disturbances that may come up after sessions to use them as targets in future sessions.
During the Reevaluation phase of EMDR therapy, the client and the therapist will discuss progress and check if they met their treatment goals. During this stage, the client also identifies a need to go over any other targets determined during the initial stages. There is also a discussion on the best ways to deal with future and current stress.
Effectiveness of EMDR Therapy
Clients who have done EMDR therapy report sleeping differently and having more vivid dreams. They may also be more sensitive to external stimuli and personal interactions with others. There is also evidence that EMDR can help to improve non-traumatic symptoms of mood disorders and can be used as a supplementary treatment for individuals suffering from chronic pain.
EMDR therapy is not the only treatment method that works best for individuals experiencing trauma, panic, PTSD, or anxiety. Clinicians can combine it with other appropriate kinds of therapy simultaneously. It would help if you talked to your therapist about combining various effective therapeutic techniques. The most common types of therapy that can be combined with EMDR include Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It can be distressing to think about past traumatic events, especially at the beginning of EMDR therapy, so you need to speak to your therapist to determine how to deal with these feelings as you progress with the treatment.
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