What is EMDR Therapy?

Individuals dealing with past trauma may benefit from a psychotherapy method known as EMDR therapy. As explained by the American Psychological Association, EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. The purpose of this modality is to extinguish negative associations of memories from past traumatic events. The focus is on the feelings surrounding the experience, rather than on the event itself. Practitioners use hand movements similar to a swinging pendulum to influence client eye movements in a side to side motion during sessions. Though the reason it works seems to be controversial and not able to be pinpointed, there is evidence that this method has been useful in the treatment of certain types of trauma and stress. Read on to learn how it works and what to expect from this treatment.

About Eye Movement Rapid Desensitization Therapy Use

Initially, this treatment was developed to lessen the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s since evolved to be used to address a number of different issues and mental health conditions. Primarily, stress and trauma-related issues are the ones most commonly treated in this manner. Other conditions that respond well to the therapy include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia and sexual dysfunction.

What to Expect in Treatment

Rather than recalling difficult past events, patients focus on the negative feelings left over from past trauma or issues. The therapist will guide an individual to sort through these emotions in order to determine which are most impactful and deciding what type of messages he or she would like to replace the old negative ones with. In addition, the therapist teaches the client strategies for dealing proactively with the negative feelings. After sessions have established these initial goals, the desensitization process begins. During these times, the practitioner will guide the patient to think about traumatic memories while attempting to follow the practitioner’s side to side finger movements with their eyes. This process is meant to aid in the processing and letting go of disturbing emotions so that the client can move forward in life less burdened. The next phase of this therapy involves focusing on the positive feelings that have replaced old associations. The end-goal is to be able to bring up the traumatic event without feeling past hurtful emotions.

How It Works

The point of EMDR therapy is to sort out the negative emotions associated with past traumatic events from the trauma itself. The old, disturbing feelings are no longer useful to the individual. Therefore, they serve no purpose and should be replaced by more useful emotions that can promote healthy behavior and relationships. There are eight stages involved in this type of therapy. These are:

  • History and Treatment Planning
  • Preparation – Trust is Established
  • Assessment – Negative Feelings Named and Positive Replacements Identified
  • Desensitization – Involves the Eye Movement Strategy
  • Installation – Positive Replacement Thoughts Are Emphasized
  • Body Scan – To Determine if Negative Feelings Remain Attached to an Event
  • Closure – Happens at the End of Each Session
  • Re-Evaluation – Occurs at the Beginning of Every Session

This is an overview of the Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing model. EMDR therapy is unique, but it does offer some established methods for overcoming traumatic emotions that hold clients back in their daily lives.

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