What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapuetic tool that allows a client to dismantle a negative core belief such as I don't matter or I am not good enough. Often these beliefs are developed in childhood and carried into adulthood where they create an false view of self which hinders the ability to have healthy relationships.The belief can come from a horrific trauma or a single isolated event. When you had an unpleasant experience in your life, chances are you grabbed hold of negative value about yourself and began to create your identity.
Our brains process events, both positive and negative, but when a disturbing event is experienced the amygdala fires up and interrupts the processing. In other words, the event is emotionally overwhelming and our survival mechanisms kick in. When this happens, at rapid speed, the event can become stuck or fragmented and needs to be reprocessed by the hippocampus in order to release the heightened emotionally sensitivity surrounding the experience. Our brains constantly try to go back in time and do it again with a different, more positive outcome. EMDR takes the overwhelming emotion out of the event and allows the client to see with a healthier view. It sounds magically, but it is what are brains are capable of. Using bilateral stimulation through sight, audio, and tactile methods the working memory becomes overloaded therefore the defenses such as minimize, avoid, blame, are no longer able to step and detour the processing. The stimulation also tells the brain it is in the present and can not possibly be in the past reliving the event, therefore updating the information and can the experience can be reprocessed in real time. The brain is forced to face the event. It moves quickly to reprocessing and the client may experience clarity, release, reduction in symptoms and a more empowered feeling about self.
Some of the symptoms EMDR treats are:
- Loss and Grief
- Eating Disorders
- Emotional Eating
- Compulsive Behavior
- Pain reduction
- Panic Attacks
- Self esteem
- Stress management
What can I expect after EMDR?* depends on the target issue, this is the typical:
1st session- tired, sluggish or a sense of power and confidence. Your brain will work, it will process, it will make sense of something although you may not know what "it" is. Imagine working out with weights but in your brain. In the short 50 min. session, your brain will be opening and closing files, reorganizing and making changes of how you have seen your past, or currently see present and future events. It is a lot of mind work. If you get a "lightbulb" moment you may feel like a weight has been lifted and feel energized.
24-48 hrs. after session- you may experience vivid dreams, you may make a connection and then feel a strong emotion.Journal helps the brain to process what happened during EMDR.
2nd session- most clients begin to experience clarity, ability to focus, sharper working memory, and overall better feeling. YOu may also notice subtle shifts in behavior. A common statement a week after 2nd session is, "I did something I have never done..." The behaviors become healthier. One client, noticed small shifts after 1st session. She noticed saying, thank you after receiving a compliment. In the past she would have dismissed it because she was a person who saw herself as not important. Small behavior changes over time, lead to a huge mind shift.
For more information about EMDR check out these resources:
American Psychological Association - case studies
EMDRIA- video from actual clients who have used EMDREMDR institute - cited information
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION (2013)
Guidelines for the Management of Conditions Specifically Related to Stress. Geneva, Switzerland: Author.
Trauma-focused CBT and EMDR are the only psychotherapies recommended for children, adolescents and adults with PTSD.
AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATION (2004)
Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Arlington,VA: American Psychiatric Association Practice Guidelines.
EMDR therapy was determined to be an effective treatment of trauma.
DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (2017)
VA/DoD Clinical Practice Guideline for the Management of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder. Washington, DC: Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Health Affairs, Department of Defense.
EMDR was given the highest level of recommendation and placed in the category of three “trauma-focused psychotherapies with the strongest evidence from clinical trials . . . These treatments have been tested in numerous clinical trials, in patients with complex presentations and comorbidities, compared to active control conditions, have long-term follow-up, and have been validated by research teams other than the developers.”
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED STUDIES
36 randomized controlled studies have evaluated EMDR therapy in the treatment of trauma.