EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a form of psychotherapy that helps people heal from the symptoms and emotional distress caused by disturbing life experiences. Just as the body has an innate ability to recover from injury, so too does the mind have the capacity to heal from psychological trauma. When an injury occurs, the body's natural healing processes are activated to repair the damage. Similarly, when the brain's information processing system is disrupted or imbalanced by a traumatic event, the emotional wound can fester and cause suffering. EMDR uses a unique protocol that activates the natural healing processes.
Studies have shown that EMDR therapy is highly effective in treating trauma. In some cases, 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after less than twelve weeks of EDMR therapy. Combat veterans have also shown improvement, with 77% being free of PTSD after 12 sessions. These findings have led to the recognition of EMDR therapy as an effective treatment for trauma by organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the Department of Defense.
EMDR therapy is conducted in eight phases and involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future.
Phase 1: History-taking session(s). We review your history and work together to come up with a treatment plan. We consider present-day symptoms and discover how the symptoms may be associated with past experiences. These are the targets that we will work with in later reprocessing phases of our work.
Phase 2: We work together to develop tools to ensure that you are prepared to cope with emotional distress. The goal of EMDR therapy is to create rapid and effective change while you are able to maintain equilibrium during and between sessions.
Phases 3-6: A target is selected and processed using EMDR therapy techniques. The target consists of three elements:
- A visual image related to a memory
- A negative belief about yourself
- Emotions and body sensations
You will also identify positive beliefs about yourself. Next, is EMDR processing using sets of bilateral stimulation, which may include eye movements, taps, or sounds. Your job is simply to notice whatever is happening during the bilateral stimulation.
Once you are noticing no signs of distress related to the targeted memory, we will have you focus on a preferred positive belief that you identified at the beginning of the session.
Phase 7: You will keep a log between sessions to document any related material that may arise. The goal is to record the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase two.
Phase 8: Continue EMDR processes until all related past events, and current symptoms are resolved.