Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress. Below is a Brief Description of EMDR Therapy.
This utube video gives a good overview of EMDR and how it works. You will notice in the video that the EMDR therapist uses their hand to lead the individual’s eyes from left to right, back and forth.
Many EMDR therapists these days use things like headphones with a beeping that goes left to right or lights to following with the eyes that go left to right. The idea is to stimulate the left and right side of the brain. Each of these techniques; following the fingers, beeping or following lights all do a similar thing called “Bi-lateral stimulation of the brain” to facilitate the EMDR processing of trauma.
Repeated studies show that EMDR has been effective in treating people who have:
- Panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Performance anxiety
- Traumatic or disturbing memories
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
EMDR is similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep.
Here is a brief animated cartoon that helps describe EMDR. (link to video)
8 Phases of EMDR Treatment
The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the history of the client. Complete treatment of the targets involves a three pronged protocol (1-past memories, 2-present disturbance, 3-future actions), and are needed to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture. The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health. “Processing” does not mean talking about it. “Processing” means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.
Past, Present and Future
Although EMDR may produce results more rapidly than previous forms of therapy, speed is not the issue and it is important to remember that every client has different needs. For instance, one client may take weeks to establish sufficient feelings of trust (Phase Two), while another may proceed quickly through the first six phases of treatment only to reveal, then, something even more important that needs treatment. Also, treatment is not complete until EMDR therapy has focused on the past memories that are contributing to the problem, the present situations that are disturbing, and what skills the client may need for the future.
Source: Excerpts from: F. Shapiro & M.S. Forrest (2004) EMDR: The Breakthrough Therapy for Anxiety, Stress and Trauma. New York: BasicBooks. http://www.perseusbooksgroup.com/perseus-cgi-bin/display/0-465-04301-1
For another description, see Therapy Advisor funded by NIMH. This website promotes scientifically based psychotherapy: http://www.therapyadvisor.com/LocalContent/adult/consumer-shapiro-EMDR-PTSD.PDF.
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 governmental agencies. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid treatment.
What kind of problems can EMDR treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Pain disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical abuse
- Body dysmorphic disorders
- Personality Disorders