What if you could go back in time and change how you experienced trauma in the past? A modern form of psychotherapy called EMDR is doing just that and clients are finding the results to be incredible. At Healthy Minds NYC, we have therapists trained specifically in this method and below you’ll find a brief primer on the basics of EMDR treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of psychotherapy proven to be effective in relieving the emotional distress associated with many psychological disorders.
EMDR was originally designed in 1987 to treat individuals suffering from PTSD as traumatic memories from the past caused disturbing emotional responses in the present. In recent years, EMDR’s use has expanded to treat a variety of disorders beyond PTSD, such as chronic anxiety, depression and acute trauma.
While many forms of therapy, such as CBT for example, focus on resolving a client’s distress by directly accessing and reformulating the thoughts, actions and emotions that resulted from a traumatic experience, EMDR takes a different approach. In EMDR, we focus directly on the traumatic memory and re-process the experience to store the memory in the brain in a way that reduces the symptoms the client is facing.
EMDR follows a specific sequence of treatment through eight phases.
Phase 1: History. First, the therapist and client work together to get a full history for the client and identify a particular memory to target.
Phase 2: Preparation. Next the therapist helps prepare the client for treatment by explaining what to expect, how the treatment will progress and supportive methods to help the client remain emotionally and physically safe and calm throughout the process.
Phase 3-6: Processing. Then the client is asked to access the chosen memory on a cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological level. The client is prompted to think about that memory and hold it in mind while using their eyes to track the therapist’s hands as they are moved back and forth across the client’s field of vision. Alternatively, the therapist may use a small machine to simulate the back and forth movement instead of the hands. As the client experiences this Rapid Eye Movement or REM action, the traumatic memories are re-processed with new positive significance. As this new interpretation is strengthened for the client, the therapist encourages the client to scan their body for any residual physiological distress.
Phase 7: Closure. During the closure phase of treatment, the client may be asked to keep a log throughout the week to monitor their experience. They will also be directed to utilize the new self-calming activities identified earlier in treatment whenever they are triggered.
Phase 8: Evaluation. At the end of the process, the client and therapist evaluate how the client now feels and what effect the treatment has had. It may be determined that additional memories can now be targeted or continued focus on the previous memory may be necessary.
While a typical EMDR session may last anywhere from 60-90 minutes, the length of treatment varies in relation to the amount of trauma the client has experienced.
Do you think EMDR could be helpful for your mental health? Consider booking an introductory session with our team of trained therapists. Schedule a free consultation with us today to learn more about how this treatment or others could be helpful for you on your journey toward health.