EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a psychotherapy approach that was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s to help people process and overcome traumatic experiences. EMDR is primarily used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), although it has also been applied to other conditions such as anxiety, phobias, and certain forms of depression. EMDR is typically characterised by processing traumatic events while completing sequences of bilateral eye tracking motions (e.g. following therapists hand motion from side to side).
If you or someone you know are struggling with PTSD and are curious about EMDR please read through to learn more.
EMDR Therapy Process and Steps
The EMDR therapy process involves the following key components:
History and Treatment Planning: The therapist starts by taking a thorough history and assessing the client’s readiness for EMDR. They collaborate with the client to identify target issues or traumatic memories that need to be addressed.
Desensitization: During an EMDR session, the client focuses on a specific traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral (left-right) stimulation. This bilateral stimulation can be achieved through various means, such as the therapist moving their fingers back and forth, using a light bar, or auditory cues (like tones or hand-held buzzers).
Reprocessing: As the client engages in bilateral stimulation, they are encouraged to let their mind wander and make associations. This process is believed to help the brain reprocess the traumatic memory, allowing for a change in the way the memory is stored and reducing emotional distress.
Installation: Positive beliefs or self-statements are then introduced and “installed” to replace negative or distressing thoughts and emotions associated with the traumatic memory.
Body Scan: The client is asked to scan their body to identify any remaining tension or discomfort associated with the memory. This is addressed using bilateral stimulation as well.
Closure: The therapist ensures that the client is in a stable state emotionally before ending the session.
EMDR is thought to work by facilitating the brain’s natural processing of traumatic memories, helping individuals reprocess and integrate the traumatic experiences in a more adaptive way. It is a structured and evidence-based therapy, with numerous studies supporting its efficacy in treating PTSD and trauma-related issues.
How Does EMDR Work
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapeutic approach designed to help individuals process and overcome traumatic experiences. The exact mechanism of how EMDR works is not fully understood, but it is believed to operate on several key principles:
Memory Reconsolidation: EMDR is based on the idea that traumatic memories are stored in a fragmented and dysregulated manner in the brain. These memories are thought to be associated with negative emotions, physical sensations, and unprocessed thoughts. The bilateral stimulation (e.g., eye movements) during EMDR sessions appears to facilitate the reconsolidation of these traumatic memories. This process allows the brain to reorganize the memory, integrate it with more adaptive information, and reduce the emotional distress associated with the memory.
Dual Attention: EMDR employs dual attention, where the individual simultaneously focuses on the traumatic memory and the therapist’s bilateral stimulation (e.g., hand movements or auditory cues). This dual attention diverts cognitive resources and engages both hemispheres of the brain. It is believed to help individuals process traumatic memories by allowing the brain to make new connections and associations with the distressing memory, potentially reducing its emotional charge.
Desensitization and Reprocessing: EMDR sessions involve a structured process where the individual identifies the target traumatic memory, explores associated thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and then engages in bilateral stimulation. This process is repeated until the distress associated with the memory diminishes, and the individual can think about the memory without experiencing intense emotional distress.
Installation of Positive Beliefs: EMDR incorporates the introduction and “installation” of positive beliefs or self-statements. Once the distress associated with the traumatic memory decreases, the therapist helps the individual develop and reinforce more adaptive and positive beliefs about themselves. This can lead to a more positive outlook and self-image.
Body Scan: During EMDR, the therapist may guide the individual in scanning their body for any remaining tension, discomfort, or physical sensations related to the traumatic memory. Bilateral stimulation is applied to address and reduce these somatic symptoms.
Closure: Each EMDR session concludes with a process designed to help the individual return to a state of emotional stability. This involves ensuring that any residual distress is minimized before ending the session.
The exact neurological and psychological mechanisms underlying EMDR are still a subject of ongoing research, but it has become a widely accepted and evidence-based treatment for trauma-related disorders. While EMDR has shown effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of PTSD and other trauma-related conditions, it may not be suitable for everyone, and the therapeutic process can vary from person to person.
EMDR Therapy Melbourne: What EMDR can be used to Treat
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy was originally developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to help individuals process traumatic memories. However, over time, it has been found to be effective in addressing a range of psychological issues and conditions. Some of the conditions and situations for which EMDR can be used include:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): EMDR is most well-known for its use in treating PTSD, especially in individuals who have experienced trauma such as combat veterans, survivors of accidents, natural disasters, or violent crimes.
Trauma and Stress-Related Disorders: EMDR can be applied to various forms of trauma, including childhood abuse, neglect, or domestic violence. It is also used in cases of acute stress disorder or complex trauma.
Anxiety Disorders: EMDR may be used to address various anxiety-related conditions, including phobias, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Depression: While not a primary treatment for depression, EMDR can be used in conjunction with other therapies to address underlying traumas or negative life experiences that contribute to depressive symptoms.
Pain Management: EMDR has been used to help individuals cope with chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS).
Addiction: Some therapists use EMDR to help individuals with addiction by addressing the underlying traumatic experiences that may contribute to substance abuse or other addictive behaviors.
Dissociative Disorders: EMDR can be a part of the treatment for dissociative disorders like dissociative identity disorder (DID).
Self-Esteem and Self-Image Issues: EMDR can be beneficial for individuals struggling with low self-esteem or negative self-image by addressing past events that have shaped these beliefs.
Performance Enhancement: EMDR has been used to help athletes, artists, and individuals in high-performance roles manage performance anxiety and improve their self-confidence.
Grief and Loss: It can assist individuals in processing and coming to terms with the grief and loss associated with the death of a loved one or other significant life changes.
Phobias and Fears: EMDR can be used to address specific phobias and fears by targeting the underlying traumatic or anxiety-provoking memories.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD): In some cases, EMDR may be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for OCD by addressing distressing and traumatic obsessions.
Eating Disorders: EMDR can be incorporated into the treatment of eating disorders to address underlying emotional and traumatic factors contributing to these conditions.
It’s important to note that EMDR is typically not a standalone treatment but is often integrated into a broader therapeutic approach. The suitability of EMDR for a particular individual and their specific issues is determined by a qualified therapist after a thorough assessment. If you or someone you know is considering EMDR as a treatment option please call on 0451 491 395.