EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro to relieve psychological disorders, trauma, and human suffering by assisting individuals safely, effectively, and efficiently. A combination of several effective therapy treatments such as body-centered therapy, psychodynamic therapies, and cognitive behavioral therapies are combined to help the client reach their potential for development.
The theory behind EMDR is that traumatic memories are stored in our memories in a dysfunctional manner. These memories are unprocessed and prevent us from using our coping skills to heal from them. EMDR uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, to enhance the client’s efficiency in healing from the negative memories and becoming desensitized to the emotional impact of these memories.
When is EMDR Called For?
EMDR can be helpful for both children and adults.
EMDR is most well known for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it may also useful in treating the following:
- Panic attacks
- Complicated grief
- Dissociative disorders
- Disturbing memories
- Pain disorders
- Performance anxiety
- Stress reduction
- Sexual and/or Physical abuse
- Body dysmorphic disorders
- Personality Disorders
Goal of Treatment/What Happens in a Session
The goal of the EMDR is to process the experiences that are troubling the patient and create new ones. In processing past experiences, the client allows their brain to assimilate the problematic memory, and uses its guidance to affect them positively in future situations. The result is positive behaviors and emotions which replace the negative emotions and actions that the client suffered previously.
EMDR makes use of outside cues that the therapist employs while the client brings up a memory that will be worked through during the session. These stimuli include visual, auditory, or tactile stimulation.
Eight Phases of EMDR
EMDR progresses through eight phases where the therapist and client explore the influence of negative and traumatic memories on the past and present while healing these memories and creating skills that benefit the client’s future.
The clinician begins by reviewing the client’s history and creating a plan for treatment. After reviewing the techniques of EMDR and forging a comfortable rapport with the clinician, the client learns relaxing techniques that can be used to deal with any challenges that may arise during therapy.
The therapy initially focuses on the expression of the negative beliefs and feelings associated with a specific event from the past. The clinician uses external stimuli such as eye movements or sound to assist the client to resolve the targeted event and similar events. Negative feelings are then replaced with positive self-statements representing the future. The treatment is resolved when unresolved thoughts are no longer able to affect the client and the client holds the skills acquired during the process to maintain health and wellbeing in the future. The client leaves in a better state that that in which they arrived and is evaluated periodically by the clinician to ensure that EMDR remains successful over time.
Where Can I Learn More?
Visit the EMDR International Association website.
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