What is EMDR Therapy and How Does The Treatment Work?
EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, is used to relieve psychological distress. This form of therapy is effective in healing the lasting and sometimes crippling effects of trauma such as military combat, rape, natural disasters, car accidents, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and mental abuse. When a person is deeply affected by an event, the brain will have a hard time processing it. It is as if the brain becomes like a scratched DVD. It cannot move past that “scratch.” Neither time nor wishing will fix it and can cause side effects in other aspects of life. This is where EMDR therapy comes in.
Many people have described EMDR as a miracle. It can help people who have always been prone to being angry or having a quick temper to being happier and more relaxed. It can help defiance turn to a willingness to at least consider new possibilities or other people`s opinions. Problems that have previously been found to be overwhelming and stress-inducing become far more manageable. New perspectives and insights will come and can help fix old problems. The impact of EMDR therapy can be far-reaching and beneficial to all.
What is EMDR Treatment like?
In an EMDR therapy session at Utah Addiction Centers in Utah, the client will try and recall as much as they can about the event such as what they felt, saw, etc. The therapist will help them identify what their overall core belief or negative thoughts about the event are. This is usually described in one sentence. An example of a beginning/negative core belief would be “I am not good enough.”
After identifying the main point(s) of struggle, the therapist initiates bilateral stimulation via eyes, sound, or tapping. During this process, the client is asked to let their mind wander and take note of whatever thoughts or memories come up. It can be something as simple as the color green or a scene from the client`s favorite movie. This is the brain`s way of sifting through the lingering trauma. After a minute or so, the therapist will cease the bilateral stimulation and ask the client to describe what came to mind. The client may process this information, then repeat with bilateral stimulation.
At the end of each session, the therapist will help the client replace the negative core beliefs (our example was, “I`m not good enough) from the beginning of the session and reprocess with a positive one. If they did start out with “I am not good enough,” by the end of the session, that belief may be replaced with “I am good enough.”
It is common to begin seeing results right away. After each EMDR treatment, the brain will sift through more and more of the information. However, fully replacing these beliefs may take more than one visit. In the end, the client will still have the memory of what happened, but using EMDR therapy the brain will be able to move past the lingering trauma and the memory will become less and less disturbing to the client.
Where Did EMDR Therapy Come From?
The possibility that different types of trauma and anxiety could be helped by eye movement was discovered and cultivated over thirty years ago by a therapist in California by the name of Dr. Francine Shapiro. She had a lot on her mind one day and so she decided to go on a walk. As she did so, she enjoyed the natural beauty around her. She noticed that she felt much better after continually looking at the scenery from one side to the other and back again.
After getting back from her walk, she began to speculate. After all, many different things could have potentially been the reason as to why she felt better while on her walk. Things like the weather or just getting out into fresh air could have had something to do with it, but she believed it ran deeper. She began to form theories and as she started to test them both on herself and her clients, she saw a noticeable change from when they started to when they ended. As she began to share her findings, others took an interest. Soon, she was not the only one testing out theories on the benefits of eye movement in therapy. Many people and organizations began to run many different, randomized tests based on the subject. Many of these test studies and their results can be found here.
EMDR therapy started coming together as hundreds of therapists tested and developed it by working together, pooling previous knowledge and techniques combined with new knowledge. There has been extensive research done on the subject of EMDR therapy by multiple organizations worldwide and as a result has been endorsed by The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA,) The World Health Organization, The Australian Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, The Australian Psychological Society, The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, The National Health and Medical Research Council, UK National Guidelines for Clinical Excellence, American Psychiatric Association, Dutch Guidelines on Mental Health Care, Israel National Council for Mental Health, and Clinical Division of the American Psychological Association, just to name a few.
Test after test, it was concluded that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR) could be proven successful. Its protocols have been formed by new science combined with the best approaches found in other treatments. It is successful for people of all ages and is one of the most evidence-based trauma therapies in the world.
EMDR can be used to treat:
- Panic Attacks
- Complicated Grief
- Eating Disorders
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Performance anxiety
- Extreme Stress
- Sexual abuse
- Physical abuse
- Mental abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Personality Disorders
What Others Can Do
EMDR therapy is an amazing therapy technique that can do a lot on its own, but there are a few things that can be done both inside and outside of the sessions that can add to the success EMDR therapy will have.
One of these is to learn different techniques from EMDR certified therapists about how to deal with new problems that arise in life. It is like a dam. If one does not learn how to effectively “unclog” a river of obstacles now, those obstacles will continue to build up over time and cause lasting effects in other areas of life.
Another crucial step that can help EMDR therapy be successful is for the client to have support. Sometimes, just knowing that you have someone who cares can be incredibly beneficial. Common support systems can include parents, spouses, siblings, and children. Support systems do not need to be familial. Having a sponsor or a support group, such as a 12 step group, is another great way to fulfill this need. Support groups can greatly benefit to the client because often they will find people who know exactly what they are going through. They may have had similar experiences in their lives and to have someone who understands on that deeper level is valuable. Ecclesiastical (religious) leaders are also a great resource.
What You Can Do to Improve Your Health
In addition, a healthy diet and regular exercise can be a huge help. While having a vast support system can help the client mentally and emotionally, taking care of oneself physically simply adds to the healing process. While one cannot always treat the mental aspect on their own, taking care of their physical wellbeing is something they can do outside of the EMDR sessions. Another step that can help aid in the success of EMDR therapy is having a high level of trust between the client and their therapist. If the client does not trust the therapist, there is no possible way that they will be able to fully take advantage of the effects of EMDR and other treatment options. To successfully use EMDR the therapist must have as much complete and honest feedback from the client as possible.
For example, what seems to be working best for them? Is there something that is not helping? Does the client have questions? Is there more to the trauma than what they have shared or brought up? These are just a few things that could help the therapist get a better handle on how best to treat the trauma. If however, the client does not feel comfortable enough to share with the therapist, then it hinders and can sometimes halt the process
Come to Us for EMDR Therapy in Utah
One thing we must point out is that EMDR therapy is NOT something that can or should be “done at home.” Not even a therapist who has been in practice for thirty years can just pick it up after reading about it. At the Utah Addiction Centers, EMDR is conducted by extensively trained therapists who have been qualified by the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA).