EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
What is it?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy. EMDR utilizes bilateral stimulation to help the brain process memories and emotions frozen in time from trauma. EMDR has been shown to be an effective treatment method for PTSD or trauma related symptoms. It has also been shown to be effective for other mental health concerns in combination with other supportive methods.
EMDR is becoming a popular treatment option for trauma related symptoms because it does not rely on one’s ability to communicate through words. No description of the event or feelings associated with the event must be given. It also works through aspects of an event that may be beyond the scope of words.
My doctor or therapist suggested it- what does it look like?
EMDR has eight phases, some will take more time than others to go through and some may be repeated several times. In general, phases 1-3 occur over several sessions to prepare for the active reprocessing work done in phases 4-7. Phases 4-7 occur within an EMDR session.
1. History Taking:
History taking involves meeting with a trained therapist for the first time, sharing about personal and family health and mental health history, and starting to build a professional relationship with the therapist. This is also a time to discuss current symptoms, treatment goals, and to create a treatment plan. If you are already an established client of a trained therapist, you have already done this through previous sessions. A brief conversation revisiting symptoms of concern and desired goals to achieve through EMDR may be held.
Preparation involves practicing skills and methods to stay calm and manage responses during and after a session has ended (this could be breathing exercises, exercise routines, grounding techniques or other calming strategies). Your therapist will also help you prepare by explaining the process of EMDR and what a session will look like. The therapist might suggest experiencing the bilateral sensation briefly to get a better idea of what it will be like.
Assessment involves identifying the images and sounds, the negative beliefs, and body sensations triggered from the memory of a distressing event. It also involves thinking about possible positive beliefs that can eventually replace the negative thoughts.
In the reprocessing phase, you will desensitize traumatic memories to reduce your associated distress using a technique called bilateral stimulation. Bilateral stimulation is using something you can see, hear, or feel and crossing the body in a rhythmic pattern. Bilateral stimulation is used while thinking about the difficult images, emotions, body sensations, and beliefs associated with a traumatic event. Periodical breaks are used to create space for check-ins and grounding. Grounding is a self-soothing technique that helps keep you in the present, helps reorient you to the here-and-now, and to reality. This cycle will be done several times in one or more sessions until one can think about the traumatic event or reminders without distress.
The goal of this phase is to create positive cognitions associated with the traumatic memory. Bilateral stimulation is used to encourage the replacement of negative beliefs with positive ones. Your therapist may also ask you to imagine yourself in the future scenarios to help prevent lapses.
6. Body Scan
Body scan is a time to check in with the body and process through any physical sensations in the current moment. Bilateral stimulation may be done to help work through any discomfort when thinking about the event.
Closure is a time to debrief after bilateral stimulation processing. An explanation of what to expect and reminders of techniques to use are given.
Reevaluation happens at the next visit or sometime later to see if the distress has resolved and the positive beliefs remain strong. If needed, plans to complete another EMDR session will be made.
If I think it would be helpful, what should I do next?
If you are already established with a therapist, please consult with your therapist first. If your therapist is trained, EMDR can be incorporated into your treatment plans. If you are not currently connected to a therapist, please reach out to our Client Services Coordinator to ask any questions you may have and share your interest in being connected with a therapist trained in EMDR.
For more information please call 763-566-0088 and speak to our Client Services Coordinator or stop by the NewPath Mental Health Services office at 8401 Wayzata Blvd., Suite 340, Golden Valley, MN 55426 to find out about services you are interested in.