Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, or EMDR Therapy for short, is a robust therapeutic model of trauma-informed therapy that is best known for its use of a set of standardized protocols that utilize Bilateral Stimulation, also known as BLS. EMDR is a holistic therapy model that focuses on enhancing the nervous system, and the brain’s, natural ability to heal.
It incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches into one robust therapeutic model that is based on the adaptive resolution of trauma. It has been researched extensively and has proven to be effective for the treatment of PTSD, trauma, dissociation, and much more.
EMDR Therapy is used to treat a variety of mental health issues, including:
1. Symptoms of PTSD & acute stress responses
2. Symptoms & behaviors in eating disorders
3. Panic & panic attacks
4. Complicated grief
5. Depersonalization, derealization, & dissociation
6. Disturbing, traumatic, & stressful memories
7. Phobias & obsessions
8. Management of chronic pain
9. Unexplaintory somatic symptoms
10. Anxiety disorders
11. Performance & social anxiety
12. Stress reduction
13. Addictions, urges, & relapse prevention
14. Sexual &/or physical abuse
15. Emotional abuse
16. Body dysmorphia
17. Some personality disorders
How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
It appears that EMDR has a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. This is very beneficial to someone who has experienced a trauma, as their brain cannot process information as it normally does. When something is traumatic to us, it may freeze in stress responses, such as flight, fight, fight, or freeze.
Therefore, a moment in time becomes “stuck” or frozen in our minds, and we experience the trauma or aspects of the trauma, such as sounds, smells, emotions, feelings, somatic sensations, thoughts, and/or images over and over again when triggered. Of course, this ends up affecting us deeply in terms of how we feel, see the world around us, and how we relate to others.
After successful EMDR sessions, the brain, and ultimately the responses of the nervous system can once again process the information more adaptively, and you no longer have to relive the trauma or the other “stuck” internal information over and over. While you still remember the event that happened, you no longer have physical, mental, or emotional distress and are unwanted symptoms.
What is perhaps most interesting about EMDR is that it appears to be very similar to what occurs naturally during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. For this reason, EMDR can be considered a physiologically based therapy that helps individuals deal with distressing events in a new and less disturbing way.
What are EMDR Therapy Sessions Like?
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates eight phases of treatment. How long it takes an individual to experience the benefits of this therapy depends on their personal history.
Treatment typically targets three different areas: past memories, present disturbance, and future actions. The goal of this treatment is to process information and experiences differently. Each session aims to leave the patient with healthy emotions, understanding, and fresh perspectives that will ultimately lead to healthy and useful future behaviors and interactions.
How Long Does it Take EMDR Therapy to Work?
It is often helpful to have one or two sessions with the individual to fully understand the nature of their problem to determine if EMDR therapy will be an appropriate treatment. During these sessions, the therapist will answer any questions the prospective patient may have about EMDR. Once the therapist and the client agree that EMDR is the right way to go, actual therapy may begin.
Sessions typically last between 60 and 90 minutes. How many sessions will be required will be based on the type of problem, personal circumstances, and the degree of the trauma. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.