EMDR Trauma Therapy
EMDR, also referred to as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), is a widely-used treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). EMDR uses rapid eye movements in order to help people process and release negative emotions.
The initial step in EMDR therapy is to gather information about your history and current symptoms. It also involves prepping you for the sessions by explaining what to expect during each one, as well as giving you tools that can help manage emotions during and between appointments.
Your therapist will begin the process by asking you to reflect on a painful memory or situation from your past. Focus on that event while performing side-to-side eye movements or other brief body sensations (BLS), and then report any new thoughts that come to mind.
These eye movements are designed to stimulate your brain in a similar manner as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep does, enabling it to access and process memories differently than usual. A therapist will guide you through this process.
Once you’ve finished with the eye movements, your therapist will ask you to scan your body from head to toe in search of residual tension or unpleasant physical sensations. These could include a feeling of being pulled in certain directions or an increase in heart rate, for instance.
Your EMDR therapist may use a hand or light bar that pulses back and forth to stimulate your sense of touch on both sides of the body, or they may direct audio tones directly at your ears. They will then begin tapping gently on either your hands or arms with either their device (which pulses in or focuses on) or holding one that focuses on certain points like your thighs.
During therapy, your therapist will employ a combination of these techniques to bring up any traumatic memories in your mind. Once they do surface, it’s as if you are witnessing them for the first time.
Your therapist will then instruct you how to focus on those memories while using EMDR’s guided instructions and rapid eye movements. Doing so can gradually lessen distressing reactions and feelings related to the traumatic experience.
Reprocessing helps your brain regain the capacity to “switch off” negative emotions and memories that caused you pain in the first place, as well as reframing trauma in a more positive light, replacing negative thoughts with healthier, more appropriate ones.
Reprocessing any traumatic event is possible, and has been shown to be especially successful for PTSD, panic attacks, depression and anxiety. A review of 26 clinical trials found that participants experienced reduced symptoms associated with these conditions after receiving EMDR therapy.
EMDR is a secure and effective treatment option for various traumas and disorders. It has been demonstrated to be successful on both adults and children alike, often recommended by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.