EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a treatment used to “desensitize and reprocess” memories that have been stored in your brain as a result of traumatic experiences (this can be a small trauma to a larger trauma). It is a powerful psychotherapy approach that has helped an estimated two million people of all ages relieve many types of psychological distress. EMDR is considered to be an effective therapy because of the quick and lasting relief clients feel from their emotional distress. EMDR therapy repeatedly activates opposite sides of the brain, which releases emotional experiences that have become trapped in the nervous system and can be completed by the eye movement, audio to tactile methods.
EMDR is shown and used at Life Counseling Solutions to have effectiveness in treating the following conditions:
• Low Self-Esteem
• Overwhelming Fears
• Relationship Problems
• Loss of a Loved One
• Performance Enhancement
• Sexual, Physical, or Emotional Abuse
• Post Traumatic Stress (Rape, Robbery, Natural Disaster, Car Accident, Fire, Earth Quakes)
How Does EMDR Work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does orginarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time,” and remembering a trauma may feel bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the world and the way they relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. The EMDR therapist works with a client in revisiting the traumatic experience, the feelings about the experience, and any negative thoughts or feelings. The therapist then uses bi-lateral stimulation (either eye-movement, tactile, or audio methods) to activate both sides of the brain to bring quick and vibrant images that are then processed by the stimulation bringing about relief and resolved feelings. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occus naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
How Was EMDR Developed?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically, and in a 1989 issue of the Journal of Traumatic Stress, she reported success using EMDR to treat victims of trauma. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. Today, EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
What is the actual EMDR session like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen, felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held about that event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for example, “I did the best I could.” During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions, but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the level of disturbance.
What is the Goal of EMDR?
The goal of EMDR is to help clients heal and have minimum life effects from there past traumas. The therapist becomes a partner with the client facilitating healing and helping to remove unprocessed traumas to bring about relief.
How long does EMDR take?
One or more sessions are required for the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from 60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
But does EMDR really work?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and government agencies. The national registry (NREPP) of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), cites EMDR as evidence based practice for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety and depression symptoms. Research has also showen that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment. For further references, a bibliography of research may be found through EMDR International Association’s website, www.emdria.org.
Orlando Trauma Therapy at Life Counseling Solutions offers EMDR to our clients for relief from emotional distress.
Call us at (407) 622-1770 or email us at info@LifeCounselingSolutions.com
(c) 2011 EMDR International Association, All Rights Reserved