EMDR Therapy is an approach to healing that many of my clients prefer to other approaches due to it’s efficacy and rapid results. I have observed many individuals overcome obstacles, heal past hurts, and achieve goals as a result of EMDR Therapy. I find this approach offers my clients a natural and empowering experience.
As EMDR is a very unique approach to psychotherapy, it differs from other more standard “talk therapies.” Below are some common questions and answers that I hope will offer some clarity to anyone considering beginning EMDR.
What is EMDR?
EMDR Therapy is a heavily researched and evidenced based approach to psychotherapy, originally discovered by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. It is based on our understanding of how the human brain processes information, particularly during the rapid eye movement (REM) that occurs when we sleep. EMDR harnesses the brain’s natural abilities to heal and process information to support recovery from a variety of mental health problems.
EMDR stands for “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.” In simple terms, it means that we use eye movement (or another form of “back and forth” stimulation of the brain) to jump-start the brain’s ability to process information so we hurt less (desensitization) and think in a healthier way (reprocessing) about past traumas or difficult life experiences.
If I choose to do EMDR Therapy, what will it be like?
Standard EMDR Therapy follows a structured 8-phase protocol. Through thorough assessment and treatment planning, you will be asked specific questions about your history and past experiences, as well as the outcomes you hope to achieve in coming to therapy. Eye movements (similar to REM sleep) will be recreated by having you track the therapist’s back-and-forth hand movements with your eyes across your visual field. Other forms of bilateral stimulation may also be preferred such as the use of audio tones or pulsers you can hold in your hands. The eye movements/tones/pulses will last for a short while, then you will be asked to report your observations and experiences from each set. You may notice changes in your thoughts, emotions, body sensations, or images you see in your mind.
Through repeated sets of bilateral stimulation (eye movements/tones/pulses), memories are “digested” in a way that typically relieves distress. Distressing memories are not erased, but they typically lose their emotional intensity and “hurt less.”
What can EMDR help with?
Originally designed as an intervention for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR helps people who have experienced specific major traumas (such as violence, natural disasters, abuse, crime, combat, etc.) as well as painful life experiences or adversity (such as growing up in an alcoholic home, patterns of poverty, relocation, relationship problems or break ups, etc.).
EMDR has also been found to successfully treat:
• Anxiety and Panic Attacks
• Sleep Problems
• Complicated Grief
• Pain, including Phantom Limb Pain
• Performance Anxiety
• Low Self-Esteem
How long does EMDR Therapy take?
This is a difficult question to answer, because the duration of treatment can vary depending on the individual’s needs, goals, and trauma history. EMDR can be brief and focused, or it can be a part of a lengthier treatment plan, integrated with other types of therapy (e.g. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Psychodynamic Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or substance abuse treatment). Reprocessing sessions are recommended to last 60-90 minutes each. Many clients experience some benefit after the first reprocessing session.
Is EMDR hypnosis?
No. EMDR is not hypnosis. You will remain fully alert and “wide awake” during EMDR Therapy. During reprocessing sessions, you will be asked frequently to share what you are noticing including rating the level of your distress. It is my job as your therapist to support and encourage your natural healing, so (especially during reprocessing sessions) I will stay out of your way as much as possible to allow your brain to do its work. You will have the ability to pause or even stop whenever needed, and you will remain fully in control, never in a true trance state.
Who can provide EMDR?
Due to its increasing popularity, EMDR is becoming more and more available. Many currently practicing psychotherapists are becoming well versed and informed on EMDR and its principles. I recommend participating in EMDR with a licensed mental health provider (psychiatrist, psychologist, clinical social worker, professional counselor, or marriage and family therapist) who is at minimum FULLY TRAINED in EMDR through an EMDRIA approved training program. This insures the provider has completed the rigorous training required to have sufficient knowledge and skills needed to provide quality EMDR intervention. Don’t be afraid to ask about your providers training.
A provider who is CERTIFIED in EMDR is fully trained and has completed additional advanced practice training and consultation to earn designation through the EMDR International Association.
I completed my EMDR Training with the Institute for Creative Mindfulness. I am fully trained and Certified in EMDR Therapy. Other trained providers can be located through the EMDRIA website.
What research is available on the success of EMDR?
Extensive research of EMDR’s efficacy has been conducted since its discovery in the 1980’s. Numerous studies have been supported by The American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, US Department of Defense, US Veteran’s Administration, private insurance providers, and The International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies – all of which recognize EMDR as an effective treatment for PTSD. Additional research has been done as well to uncover EMDR’s efficacy in treating other mental health disorders as well, and specific protocols have been designed to best address certain problems (e.g. phobias, recent traumatic events).
How can I learn more about EMDR?
Consider visiting EMDRIA’s (The EMDR International Association) website at www.EMDRIA.org. Another useful source is www.TraumaMadeSimple.com. Researchers and authors I recommend include Francine Shapiro, Ph.D., Jamie Marich, Ph.D., and Laurel Parnell, Ph.D.