Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
November 23, 2021
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What is EMDR therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an interactive psychotherapy technique to relieve psychological stress. It is a treatment for trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
During EMDR therapy sessions, you relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements.
EMDR is effective because recalling distressing events is often less emotionally upsetting when your attention is diverted. This allows you to be exposed to memories or thoughts without having a strong psychological response.
Benefits of EMDR?
People dealing with traumatic memories and those who have PTSD are thought to benefit the most from EMDR therapy.
It’s thought to be particularly effective for those who struggle to talk about their past experiences.
Although there is not sufficient research to prove its effectiveness in these areas, EMDR therapy is also being used to treat:
EMDR therapy is broken down into eight different phases, so you’ll need to attend multiple sessions. Treatment usually takes about 12 separate sessions.
Phase 1: History and treatment planning
Your therapist will first review your history and decide where you are in the treatment process. This evaluation phase also includes talking about your trauma and identifying potential traumatic memories to treat specifically.
Phase 2: Preparation
Your therapist will then help you learn several different ways to cope with the emotional or psychological stress you’re experiencing.
Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness may be used.
Phase 3: Assessment
During the third phase of EMDR treatment, your therapist will identify the specific memories that will be targeted and all the associated components (such as the physical sensations that are stimulated when you concentrate on an event) for each target memory.
Phases 4–7: Treatment
Your therapist will then begin using EMDR therapy techniques to treat your targeted memories. During these sessions, you will be asked to focus on negative thoughts, memories, or images.
Your therapist will simultaneously have you do specific eye movements. The bilateral stimulation may also include taps or other actions mixed in, depending on your case.
After the bilateral stimulation, your therapist will ask you to let your mind go blank and notice the thoughts and feelings you’re having spontaneously. After identifying these thoughts, your therapist may have you refocus on that traumatic memory or move on to another.
If you become distressed, your therapist will help bring you back to the present before moving on to another traumatic memory. Over time, the distress over particular thoughts, images, or memories should start to fade.
Phase 8: Evaluation
In the final phase, you’ll be asked to evaluate your progress after these sessions. Your therapist will do the same.
How Effective is EMDR Therapy?
Multiple independent and controlled studies suggest that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. It’s even one of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ strongly recommended options to treat PTSD.
A 2012 study of 22 people found that EMDR therapy helped 77 percent of psychotic disorder and PTSD individuals. It found that their hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, and depression symptoms were significantly improved after treatment. The study also found that symptoms were not exacerbated during treatment.
An older study that compared EMDR therapy to typical prolonged exposure therapy found that EMDR therapy was more effective in treating symptoms.
The study also found that EMDR therapy had a lower dropout rate from participants. Both, however, offered a reduction in the symptoms of traumatic stress, including both anxiety and depression.
Several small studies have also found evidence that EMDR therapy is effective in the short term and that its effects can be maintained long. One 2004 study evaluated people several months after being given either “standard care” (SC) treatment for PTSD or EMDR therapy.
During and immediately after treatment, they noticed that EMDR was significantly more efficient in reducing symptoms of PTSD. During the three- and six-month follow-ups, they also recognized that participants maintained these benefits long after the treatment had ended.
Overall, the study found that EMDR therapy gave people a longer-lasting reduction in symptoms than SC.
Concerning depression, one study of 32 people conducted in an inpatient setting found that EMDR therapy shows promise in treating the disorder.
The study found that 68 percent of the people in the EMDR group showed complete remission after treatment. The EMDR group also showed a more substantial decrease in depressive symptoms overall. Because of the small sample size, more research is needed.
EMDR therapy has proven to be effective in treating trauma and PTSD. It may also help treat other mental conditions like anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
Some people may prefer this treatment to prescription medications, which can have unexpected side effects. Others may find that EMDR therapy strengthens the effectiveness of their drugs.
If you think EMDR therapy is right for you, make an appointment with a licensed therapist.
Taken from this article: https://www.healthline.com/health/emdr-therapy