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What Is EMDR Therapy? Let’s Eyeball It

What Is EMDR

What else can I say? chipur is all about emotional and mental healing – and education is so important. Well, how ’bout we chat EMDR today?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a psychotherapy. And it facilitates healing from the symptoms of emotional distress generated by disturbing life experiences. It was developed by Francine Shapiro, PhD.

EMDR is grounded in the belief that the brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward emotional and mental health. But if something is blocking the natural order of things – say, a disturbing event from the past – suffering ensues. ‘Course, when the impediment is removed, healing can begin.

So it’s about the workings of EMDR activating our natural emotional and mental healing processes.

EMDR is recognized as an effective treatment by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the Department of Defense.

EMDR, in action, involves shining a light on past disturbing memories and their underlying events. But it isn’t always a matter of taking strolls down memory lane. EMDR considers present distressing situations, as well as aiding in the development of skills and mindsets needed for positive actions in the future.

Business is handled by using this eight-phase treatment approach (I’m quoting from the EMDR Institute, Inc. website).

  • Phase 1: This is a history taking session during which the therapist assesses the client’s readiness for EMDR and develops a treatment plan. Client and therapist identify possible targets for EMDR processing. These include recent distressing events, current situations that elicit emotional disturbance, related historical incidents, and the development of specific skills and behaviors that will be needed by the client in future situations.
  • Phase 2: Here, the therapist ensures that the client has adequate methods of handling emotional distress and good coping skills, and that the client is in a relatively stable state. If further stabilization is required, or if additional skills are needed, therapy focuses on providing these. The client is then able to use stress reducing techniques whenever necessary, during or between sessions. However, one goal is not to need these techniques once therapy is complete.
  • Phase 3-6: Lots of info here, but it’s important. A target is identified and processed using EMDR procedures. These involve the client identifying the most vivid visual image related to the memory (if available), a negative belief about self, related emotions and body sensations. The client also identifies a preferred positive belief. The validity of the positive belief is rated, as is the intensity of the negative emotions. After this, the client is instructed to focus on the image, negative thought, and body sensations while simultaneously moving his/her eyes back and forth following the therapist’s fingers as they move across his/her field of vision for 20-30 seconds or more, depending upon the need of the client. Although eye movements are the most commonly used external stimulus, therapists often use auditory tones, tapping, or other types of tactile stimulation. The client is instructed to just notice whatever happens. After this, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind. Depending upon the client’s report the clinician will facilitate the next focus of attention. In most cases a client-directed association process is encouraged. This is repeated numerous times throughout the session. If the client becomes distressed or has difficulty with the process, the therapist follows established procedures to help the client resume processing. When the client reports no distress related to the targeted memory, the clinician asks him/her to think of the preferred positive belief that was identified at the beginning of the session, or a better one if it has emerged, and to focus on the incident, while simultaneously engaging in the eye movements. After several sets, clients generally report increased confidence in this positive belief. The therapist checks with the client regarding body sensations. If there are negative sensations, these are processed as above. If there are positive sensations, they are further enhanced.
  • Phase 7: It’s closure, the therapist asking the client to keep a journal during the week to document any related material that may arise, and reminds the client of the self-calming activities that were mastered in phase 2.
  • Phase 8: Re-evaluation of previous work, and of progress since the previous session.

To the point, EMDR’s primary goal is the production of the most comprehensive and profound treatment effects in the shortest period of time. This, while helping the client maintain a sense of stability within a balanced system.

By the way, after EMDR processing, clients generally report that the emotional distress related to the memory has been eliminated – or greatly decreased. Clients also report having gained important cognitive insights.

Best part is, these emotional and cognitive changes usually result in spontaneous behavioral and personal change.

EMDR – sound interesting? Ask your current therapist if they’re qualified to facilitate it. Looking for a therapist? Ask about EMDR.

More chipur Feelin’ Better articles? Just tap here. Articles on the psychology of depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder? Right here.

  • I have tried this on my own with some guided youtube videos but the “powers that be” were not happy about it. The flashing light patterns made my brain feel fuzzy.

    • It’s a dicey intervention; however, known to be efficacious in some cases – if facilitated by a qualified therapist. Um, yeah – the “on my own thing” could present a challenge.
      Bill

  • Well, the assertion seems to be among the “higher powers” that a therapist would suggest false memories to you and pretty soon you would believe them. I would not be able to get comfortable in this sort of situation anyhow. I have tried guided MP3 hypnosis. It seems to get harder and harder to unwind. Since these techniques are considered “New Age” by “the powers that be”, I am forbidden to have any part in them. And besides, if I tried to go through and erase every trauma I’ve ever had… I’d never recover. There’s just too much. If I were happy all the time, I’d have remarkably fewer symptoms. But that’s just my two cents.

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