What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of therapy used by trained or certified clinicians by using bilateral stimulation (usually eye movements or rhythmic tapping) while focusing on a traumatic memory. By doing so, the intensity and emotional connections associated with a traumatic memory are reduced. EMDR was developed on the premise that the traumatic events (also the events linked to specified disorders) were not properly processed in the brain and therefore affect us through nightmares, flashbacks, or thoughts bringing the trauma back into focus. This type of therapy is a highly researched and significantly effective modality of therapy. It aids in treatment of disorders such as depression, chronic pain, OCD, addictions, eating disorders, anxiety, and traumatic life events.
The development of EMDR Therapy.
Dr. Francine Shapiro was walking in a park in 1987 when she realized that eye movements seemed to decrease her own distressing memories. As she experimented, she also learned that the eye movements had a desensitizing, or numbing, effect. She called the therapy Eye Movement Desensitization (EMD). By 1989, controlled studies in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were published with great success, but only when it was used with cognitive training or reprocessing. Therefore, in 1991 Shapiro changed the name of this newly found treatment to EMDR.
How EMDR Therapy works.
EMDR helps train the brain to store the traumatic events into the proper compartments, allowing the individual to remember the memory without experiencing the extreme, emotional reactions. EMDR therapy usually requires anywhere from 6-12 sessions, but it also depends on the individual’s response to the therapy. When meeting with an EMDR trained clinician, such as myself, they will ask you to focus on a traumatic memory while instructing you to move your eyes from left to right (or tapping your hands rhythmically) at a steady pace. This movement uses both sides of your brain and is called bilateral stimulation. One theory is that EMDR helps both the sides of your brain, left (reason and logic) & right (emotions), to communicate with one another.
8 Phases of EMDR Therapy
- History & Treatment Planning – understanding a client’s history and developing a treatment plan with attention to traumatic events. A client’s internal and external resources are assessed.
- Preparation – EMDR therapy is explained to the client and a therapeutic alliance is made. Specific techniques are taught to the client to help cope with any emotional disturbance that may come up.
- Assessment – Identify the event to reprocess including images, beliefs, sensations, and feelings. Establish a baseline before beginning reprocessing using clinical scaled (SUDS* & VOC**).
The next 3 phases are known as the “Reprocessing Phases” and involve the bilateral stimulation
- Desensitization – begin bilateral stimulation while focusing on the traumatic event until the client’s SUD scale reduces to a 1 or 0. At this time, new thoughts, sensations, images, and feelings may emerge.
- Installation – once desensitization is complete, the client starts to associate and strengthens positive beliefs with the target event until it feels completely true.
- Body scan – client is asked to hold the target event in mind with the positive belief while scanning the body from head to toe to see if there are any lingering disturbances.
The last 2 phases ensure the safety for the client at the end of the session and the beginning of the next session
- Closure – client is assisted to return to a state of calm in the present moment whether reprocessing is complete or not in that session. Reprocessing is complete when the client feels neutral about the event and the positive belief about the event is completely true, and the body is clear of any disturbance.
- Reevaluation – how each new session begins after reprocessing. Client discusses the processed memories to ensure the distress level is still low and the positive cognition is still valid.
*SUDS – Subjective Units of Disturbance scale: 0 (lowest level of distress) to 10 (highest level of distress)
**VOC – Validity of Cognition scale: 1 (does not believe positive cognition to be true) to 7 (truly believes positive cognition to be true)
If you’d like more information about how an EMDR trained therapist in Colleyville, Texas can help your unique situation, call our office at 817-778-0522 to schedule a session with me or use this link to schedule online. I look forward to helping you heal.
Sonia Noorany, LPC-Associate
Supervised by Scott Martindale, LPC-S