Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy technique that has been successful in helping people relieve many types of emotional distress. Most of the time your body can manage new experiences without you being aware of it. However, when something disturbing occurs or you are traumatized, your brain becomes overwhelmed and cannot process information as it normally does. The experience remains frozen or unprocessed in your brain and remembering the experience can feel as bad as experiencing it the first time.
EMDR utilizes the natural healing ability of your brain to release these unprocessed negative memories and helps you successfully process the experience. Following successful completion of EMDR you will still remember the memory, but you will no longer relive the negative images, sounds and feelings when the event is brought to mind.
How was EMDR developed?
EMDR was developed over 20 years ago by Dr. Francine Shapiro when she made a chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts. Since then, with contributions from therapists and researchers all over the world, EMDR has developed into a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
What Types of Problems Does EMDR treat?
There has been extensive scientific research done that has established EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD and trauma. EMDR has also been shown effective in treating anxiety, panic disorder, depression, phobias, sleep problems, abuse, addiction, complicated grief, pain relief and self-esteem.
What to Expect from an EMDR session:
During treatment, you may experience intense emotions and it is important that you have skills to deal with these emotions. Before starting EMDR your therapist will prepare you by teaching you coping skills/relaxation techniques for you to use before, during and after your sessions. Together with your therapist, you will develop a treatment plan, identifying a specific memory or memories that you will focus on.
Your therapist will ask you to briefly recall the disturbing memory including the negative thoughts and feelings associated with it while engaging in EMDR via back and forth eye movements or tactile methods such as tapping or vibrations (bilateral stimulation). The eye movements/taps/pulses last for a short time and then stop. You will just notice whatever comes to mind without making any effort to control the direction of your thoughts. This process is repeated until there is no distress while recalling the memory. You don’t have to discuss the memory in detail and your therapist will intervene as little as possible, while being there to guide you towards self-healing and offering support.
A typical EMDR session last 60-90 minutes. You will remain in control, alert and wide awake throughout treatment and can stop at any time; it is not a form of hypnosis. The type of problem, life circumstance and amount of previous trauma determine how many sessions are necessary to complete treatment.
What are the Risks?
As with any type of therapy, sometimes you might feel worse before you start to heal and feel better. You will need to think about things that you may have avoided dealing with and other distressing or unresolved memories may emerge. Uncomfortable feelings may arise during therapy and between sessions and it will be important to utilize the coping skills you have learned to help manage these feelings.
Who can provide EMDR treatment?
Mental Health Professionals who have completed both Level I and Level II of an EMDRIA approved training program are considered qualified to practice EMDR.
Contact Grief Recovery Center to schedule a free phone consultation by calling us at (832) 413-2410 today.