EMDR

Trauma Treatment
Tel: 602-691-6560

 

Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)

What is EMDR and How Does it Work?
EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing.  It was developed by Francis Shapiro and originally called EMD.  Shapiro later modified her work to go beyond decreasing emotional reactivity to tap into the memory aspect of healthy processing (the “R” in EMDR) and the name is what it is today. 

EMDR helps release painful emotional experiences that are trapped in the nervous system.

Francis Shapiro apparently discovered the impact of eye movements on negative emotions while she was walking in the park one day.  Apparently, she noticed that her distress decreased from whatever memory she was processing  when her eyes moved from side to side.

EMDR and REM Sleep
Though we might think that the only thing that happens while we sleep is rest and dreams, as essential as those things are, we also invoke a kind of night therapy evaluating the troubling parts of our day in an attempt to draw meaning and integrate them into our being.

This is what we often refer to as “processing” when we take time out while we are awake to “figure things out.” Well, we also do this while we sleep which probably explains the sage advice that it is a good idea to sleep on problems to get a better perspective in the morning. 

For the most part, this naturally occurring ability allows us to draw meaning from our troubling life experiences.  Our body incorporates the events of the day into our overall experience.  It all gets “updated” against this prior experience to form a current and useful perspective on things to inform our actions in the future. At least, this the ideal outcome.  All of this meaningful integration is supposed to happen during REM sleep.

We apparently go in and out of this REM (Rapid Eye Movement] period of sleep throughout the night as we alternate between regular sleep and REM sleep.  Interestingly, during REM sleep, there’s another unique occurrence.  Our brain halts release of the stress-related chemical, noradrenaline.  In the body, this chemical is known simply as adrenaline. Perhaps this is why we don’t feel so rested when we lack time in this sleep state. There’s a little more to it than this, of course, but this is the gist of it for a good intro.

What has this to do with EMDR?  EMDR mimics this rapid eye movement through hand gestures, devices or apps (now that so much counseling is in a virtual environment).  In a way, it seeks to trigger this internal and organic way we have of integrating disturbing experience.  As we know, not all disturbing experience is integrated.  It comes back on us in the form of a “trigger.”  When distressing events are “processed,” they fade with time.  Painful events that are triggered feel as though they are happening right now.  All over again.

Adaptive Information Processing Theory (AIP)
According to the theoretical approach upon which EMDR is based, AIP, some experiences are thought to be so overwhelming that they get “stuck” which interrupts our ability to store or retrieve the memory properly.  Following this, whenever our body sees cues in our environment that evokes i.e., “triggers” the traumatic memory whether its an image, thought, smell, sound, or another aspect of that memory, it is recalled in the present in its incomplete state. This results in our feeling, seeing or experiencing this aspect with the same intensity of its original form.  We lose sense of time with this “stuck” state, so our distress in the past is felt in our present. 

Not Just Trauma and More Than Protocol
There’s so much interest in EMDR because its applications extend beyond trauma.   There has been extensive research conducted with respect to the benefits of EMDR.  It has resulted in successful treatment outcomes for many mental health conditions, including anxiety, depressive symptoms and panic disorder.

Scroll down this page for more information about how to prepare for an EMDR session.


EMDR is actual therapy. It’s not just a protocol.  Indeed, the World Health Organization (WHO)  has identified EMDR therapy and  trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as the only psychotherapies recommended for PTSD.

While commonly known as a treatment for PTSD and trauma, EMDR is also successfully used to treat a number of ailments and issues:

  • Trauma or PTSD
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic stress
  • Grief
  • Eating disorders
  • Phobias
  • Chronic pain

We are currently accepting new clients for EMDR.  

 

Sad woman complaining and crying at home
EMDR therapy session combined with top down CBT talk therapy

EMDR is an effective treatment for many Ailments and Disorders

Readiness for EMDR

EMDR readiness and preparation trauma therapy

How do You Prepare?

In addition to the motivation and willingness that is helpful in most mental health treatment, EMDR requires ability to tolerate distressing material.  Yes, it’s likely you are interested in EMDR therapy to manage high levels of emotion, but not being able to do so can not only jeopardize a successful outcome, but re-expose a client to traumatic memory unnecessarily. 

To address this, an experienced therapist will take time to evaluate your  tolerance. 

 Your preparation for EMDR includes support and guidance to develop strategies that help you downregulate on your own independent of your therapist.

Generally speaking, a client needs to be able to recall a distressing material without free falling into related sensations or emotions and while being able to be sufficiently present in the now to hear any therapist prompts.

Some key things to note about EMDR which may help in your preparation: 

  • EMDR should not be overwhelming or retraumatize.
  • You need to be able to process thoughts and emotions.
  • Generally, you need at least 10-12 sessions to see the effects of EMDR.
  • If therapy hasn’t worked for you, EMDR may work.
  • EMDR involves less verbal processing compared to other conventional treatments. (That is, you don’t have to talk about painful events in too much detail).

  • Some studies show that 84%-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have PTSD after only a few sessions.
  • EMDR slows down your overstimulated brain!
 Ask your therapist about EMDR intensives. For some, particularly those with single event trauma, it is possible to learn skills to manage nervous system dysregulation quite quickly and complete multiple EMDR sessions over a week or less.

The EMDR session in a nutshell

  • Individual sessions are about 90 minutes each.
  • Sessions can be on consecutive days.
  • At the start, you are asked to recall and activate a negative experience that was previously discussed as a suitable target.
  • The therapist initiates sets of rapid eye movements (or some other form of bilateral stimulation).

  • You free associate so that “whatever happens, happens.”  You simply let your mind go where it wants to go.

  • The therapist repeats eye movements and alternates these with prompts to which you can briefly report on whatever you are experiencing.  
  • EMDR continues until the target memory fades into your past.
  • Sessions are repeated so that there is an opportunity to check that the memory is still distant and to complete all of your target memories.

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