You may have heard of EMDR therapy, but wondering what it is, how it works, and if it might be the right treatment for you. EMDR stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy and is used to treat a variety of mental health issues including but not limited to trauma, grief and loss, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, substance abuse, eating disorders, and obsessive compulsive disorders. EMDR can also be used to treat challenges such as low self-esteem and addiction (various types: shopping, gambling, internet, the list goes on). Studies show EMDR is one of the most powerful therapeutic treatments available to-date for the treatment of trauma. My aspirations for this article are to provide you with a clear explanation of what EMDR is and how it works, in a simplistic way.
Ok, so What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR is a treatment developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro that consists of 8 standardized stages. The main component of the treatment is that it encompasses bilateral stimulation to activate the information processing system in the brain, while an individual consciously thinks of specified negative memories and/or thoughts.
The information processing system is what is activated during REM sleep (rapid eye movement-the 5th stage of the sleep cycle). During REM sleep, we dream while our brain diligently tries to organize all the information attained from our experiences that day.
During EMDR treatment, bilateral stimulation can be achieved by using one or more of the following methods, varying in intensity, frequency, and number of sets:
- Eye movements: this form of bilateral stimulation involves using sense of sight. Clients visually follow an object or lights that are moving back and forth.
- Tactile: this form of bilateral stimulation involves using sense of touch. This is usually accomplished with tapping or the use of pulsars that vibrate gently, alternating from left to right.
- Audio: this form of bilateral stimulation involves using sense of hearing. Clients listen to gentle tones that alternate back and forth, while wearing head phones or ear buds.
How Does EMDR Work?
It is believed that during traumatic and/or negative experiences, associated information may not process completely during REM sleep. Therefore, during EMDR treatment, when the information processing system is activated while the client actively thinks of these negative events, the brain is able to more effectively process the information, helping people heal and alleviate reported symptoms of distress.
In my practice, I provide an extensive assessment including varying psychometrics to ensure suitable candidacy and to prepare clients for EMDR treatment. I use a combination of all three bilateral stimulation during treatment when appropriate, utilizing pulsars made specifically for EMDR treatment. I often combine cognitive behavioral therapies with EMDR, as possessing strong coping skills are essential to managing life’s challenges. EMDR can be viewed as a treatment accelerator as it helps remove barriers that could be preventing one from moving on from a traumatic event or thought(s).
If you think you may benefit from EMDR therapy, consult with a licensed professional counselor to discuss your specific situation and needs to identify whether you are a good candidate for EMDR. Treatment can be very emotionally draining and emotionally painful as clients are urged to consciously think about traumatic memories, feelings, and/or thoughts they typically try very hard to suppress or repress.
For much more detailed information on EMDR, please see http://www.emdr.com/frequent-questions/. As always, you are welcome to contact me if you have additional questions.