What is EMDR & how does it work?
EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) involves a series of rapid eye movements, like those of REM sleep, to reprocess disturbing memories, trauma or phobias and resolve and desensitize them emotionally. When we sleep we process our experiences from the day with REM sleep, where the eye movements connect right and left brain hemispheres. This brain activity whilst you sleep encourages resolution and understanding of situations with the unconscious mind. However, sometimes when we experience trauma it does not get resolved, perhaps through a lack of sleep at that particular time. EMDR, used whilst the client is fully conscious and alert, naturally and effectively processes the memories, triggering desensitization and resolution within the emotional self.
What are the benefits?
EMDR is the most rapid and effective way to desensitize the images, sounds and feelings associated with trauma. Studies consistently show that treatments with EMDR result in elimination of the targeted emotion. The memory remains, but the negative emotions are neutralized or “flattened”.
The use of EMDR therapy has shown that the positive, long-term results affect all aspects of a client's well-being - the physical, mental and emotional.
Because EMDR has the capacity to relieve any type of emotional block or fear, it is now used across a wide range of issues. With EMDR available to clients it is now possible to overcome severe emotional trauma in a very short time frame, perhaps even one or two sessions.
Generally, EMDR uses an eight-phase protocol for each event that is processed. This includes taking a history; preparing the client; target identification; processing the past, present, and future aspects of the event; and ongoing evaluation of progress or new material that may emerge. The processing of a target involves sets of bilateral stimulation – usually eye movements – while focusing on aspects of the event. The client reports what he/she is experiencing between each “set” of eye movements. At the end of treatment, disturbing memories and situations that trigger them should no longer be a problem and new healthy responses are possible.
What happens in the sessions?
How many sessions?
The number of sessions will depend on the specific problem and your psychological history. Another factor is your ability to deal with strong emotions that may arise during processing. (Your therapist will teach self-soothing techniques prior to EMDR work.) Studies show that a single trauma can be “cleared” within three sessions in 80-90% of clients. Multiple traumas or a long history of trauma may require more sessions, with treatment lasting a few weeks to several months.
Therapists who treat with EMDR are required to have 40 hours of approved training and practicum. It is recommended that EMDR therapists have ongoing professional consultation with an approved EMDR consultant. Despite these measures to ensure effectiveness and safety, potential clients should be aware that there are some risks associated with EMDR, as with any other therapy.
As mentioned above, the practice of EMDR utilizes safety measures which the therapist teaches to the client prior to the initiation of treatment.
It’s not only major traumas that cause distress. The day-to-day hardships and occurrences that come with everyday living can greatly inhibit our ability to enjoy and fully participate in our lives.
EMDR has been used successfully to treat these little “t” traumas:
Plus, EMDR is an excellent tool for working on:
Material in this section is adapted from information provided by the EMDR Institute and the EMDR International Association. For more information, check out these websites:
The EMDR International Association
The EMDR Institute
EMDR RESEARCH & RESOURCES
For more information (including research) about EMDR, you may want to visit these websites:
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