EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a well-researched and established therapy that combines imagery, mindfulness, and cognitive techniques to meet the client’s treatment needs. EMDR is often used in trauma counseling and in the treatment of anxiety.
The process of doing EMDR therapy usually involves focus on a traumatic or disturbing memory while doing back and forth eye movements, feeling alternating vibrations in your hands, and/or listening to alternating tones. This process enables the brain to resolve emotional trauma and gain insight into the circumstance in a way that is often more effective than traditional talk therapy.
The number of sessions required for this form of treatment varies depending on the issues being addressed. If there is a single traumatic incident that is the subject of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, then it can typically be resolved in five or six sessions, including the intake and preparation. However, for multiple traumas or a long history of past abuse, trauma or neglect, this type of therapy can take considerably longer for resolution of the issues.
The most positive gain with EMDR is that the resolution tends to be more thorough and long standing than other forms of therapy as we can address the root of the problem, any current triggers associated with the problem and we also may work on future scenarios that may be creating anticipatory anxiety.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy is used for PTSD treatment, anxiety counseling, depression treatment, grief counseling, addictions counseling and so much more.
Understanding EMDR therapy:
The process of EMDR therapy varies slightly based on clients’ circumstances and their history. However, I generally follow the standard eight phases of EMDR therapy when using this form of treatment.
- Evaluating history for EMDR: I start by getting your background. During this phase we are looking at the areas you would like to address with the EMDR therapy and learning more about the foundation of your experiences.
- Preparing for EMDR therapy: During this phase of the therapy, I am teaching you coping skills and building on your strengths and resources. We are preparing you for the EMDR processing so that it progresses most efficiently.
- Setting up the EMDR target: Once we know which issues we would like to address, we will start setting up the “target” (issue that we will focus on) for processing.
- EMDR desensitization: We do the actual processing of the target using eye movements until there is no longer any disturbance associated with it.
- EMDR installation: We will continue to use eye movements after processing the disturbance associated with the memory, but at this point will be focusing on your positive belief and adaptive perspective.
- EMDR body scan: I will have you bring your attention to your whole body to determine if there is any residual disturbance or discomfort.
- EMDR closure: I will help you to integrate the new adaptive perspective into your day to day life.
- EMDR re-evaluation: At subsequent sessions we are re-assessing the treatment effects from the previous session to make sure that they have been sustained or to assess where we need to resume the work.
How many sessions for EMDR therapy?
The duration of treatment is often misunderstood. The length of time to go through the eight phases of EMDR varies. In rare cases, you could potentially get through the eight phases from start to finish in just a few sessions for one target.
It is advisable to spend time initially in the therapy making sure you feel comfortable with me as your therapist and making sure I understand your history and goals for treatment.
For each target it can vary for the length of time processing. Sometimes it takes several sessions to process a target and sometimes it only takes one session before we can move on to the next target.
I will be teaching you coping skills during the early phases of treatment. If you practice your coping skills in between sessions, it will increase your ability to process through the targets most effectively, expediting the treatment.
Do we do EMDR without talking?
EMDR does involve some talk therapy. The time spent listening to your history and getting to know you is very important. Even after we have begun the processing of memories, some clients like to have two or three sessions that are focused on EMDR therapy and then spend a session just wanting to talk. You are encouraged to work with me to determine the pace that is most comfortable for you.
In addition, I will check in with you every minute or so and there will be a brief exchange. I am working to create a feeling of safety and calm so that you can have the best EMDR processing experience.
Can EMDR treat anxiety and problems other than PTSD?
EMDR was initially approved for treatment of PTSD, however since the early days of its development it has been effectively used to treat anxiety, depression, grief, addictions and more.
Can EMDR make PTSD worse?
As an EMDR therapist, I am trained to screen clients to make sure they have good coping skills prior to beginning EMDR. If necessary, I will teach you more coping skills to help manage the symptoms of PTSD prior to beginning EMDR. Sometimes EMDR therapy can be upsetting when you are thinking about painful memories in the processing, but I am right there with you, helping you to feel safe, helping you to regulate your emotions, and helping you to reorient to your coping skills prior to leaving the session. I am there to help you through the tough stuff and to help you strengthen the insights you have gained.
Can EMDR cause memory loss?
EMDR won’t cause memory loss, but the memory will not hold the same negative charge that it used to hold for you prior to the successful processing. You will have more adaptive emotions around the memory and it will no longer trigger unpleasant feelings or unwanted behaviors and reactions.