EMDR Therapy: What You Need To Know

EMDR Therapy: What You Need To Know

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a distinctive, non-traditional form of psychotherapy designed to diminish negative feelings associated with traumatic memories. Since its development in the late 1980s, EMDR therapy has grown in popularity and is now a recommended treatment for trauma by organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO). In this article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of EMDR therapy, how it works, and what to expect during a session.

Understanding EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy is based on the premise that our brains have the natural ability to heal from psychological trauma, just as our bodies do from physical trauma. When a disturbing event occurs, it can get ‘locked’ in the nervous system with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. EMDR therapy aims to help the brain to process these memories and allow normal healing to resume. The therapy involves eight phases, including history-taking, preparation, assessment, and treatment that uses bilateral sensory input such as side-to-side eye movements.

How Does EMDR Work?

The key element of EMDR therapy is ‘bilateral stimulation,’ which typically involves asking the patient to follow the therapist’s fingers as they move back and forth across the patient’s field of vision. This bilateral sensory input is thought to work by stimulating the same processes that occur in REM sleep, helping to reduce the vividness and emotion associated with the traumatic memories.

Benefits of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy has been found to be particularly effective for those suffering from PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Numerous studies have shown that EMDR can reduce the symptoms of trauma after just a few sessions. It’s also been applied to treat anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and other stress-related disorders.

What to Expect in an EMDR Session

An EMDR therapy session is unique in that it does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR serves as a form of physiologically based therapy that allows the individual to re-experience an event in a new way. Sessions can last up to 90 minutes during which the therapist will move their fingers back and forth in front of your face and ask you to follow these hand motions with your eyes. At the same time, the EMDR therapist will have you recall a disturbing event, including the emotions and body sensations that go along with it.

Finding a Qualified EMDR Therapist

It’s crucial to find a therapist who has undergone the approved EMDR training. The EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) has a directory of trained EMDR therapists. A good EMDR therapist should help you feel safe and in control of the pace of the therapy.

FAQ About EMDR Therapy

Is EMDR therapy safe?

Yes, EMDR therapy is considered safe with fewer side effects than many other psychological treatments. However, it can cause a heightened sense of awareness that might not die down immediately after the session.

How long does it take for EMDR therapy to work?

The length of time EMDR therapy takes can vary depending on the individual and their history. Some clients may see improvements in a few sessions, while others may require a longer treatment period.

Can EMDR therapy be done online?

Yes, with the recent advancements in telehealth, many therapists offer EMDR therapy sessions online using video conferencing tools.

Is EMDR therapy only for trauma?

While EMDR is particularly effective for PTSD and trauma, it has also been used to treat a variety of other psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.

Do I need to relive painful events during EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy involves recalling distressing events, but it is not the same as reliving them. The therapy aims to make these memories less overwhelming by altering the way they are stored in the brain.