What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR is a psychotherapy approach that was developed by psychologist
Dr. Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s. It is recognized as an evidence-based treatment for trauma and has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of psychological issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, phobias, and other emotional wounds.
EMDR therapy is unique in that it incorporates bilateral stimulation, which can be in the form of eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones, to stimulate both sides of the brain. This bilateral stimulation is thought to facilitate the processing and integration of traumatic memories and other distressing experiences in a way that promotes healing.
The approach to healing in EMDR therapy involves the belief that unresolved traumatic memories and experiences are at the root of many psychological difficulties. These memories can become "stuck" or "frozen" in the brain, and their associated emotions, beliefs, and sensations can continue to affect a person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in the present, even if the traumatic event occurred in the past.
Examples of what EMDR therapy is used to treat include:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): EMDR therapy is particularly effective in treating PTSD, which is a mental health condition that can occur in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Studies have shown that EMDR therapy significantly reduces PTSD symptoms, including intrusive memories, avoidance behaviors, and emotional distress.
Anxiety Disorders: EMDR therapy has been used to treat various anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, and social anxiety disorder. Research has shown that EMDR therapy can help reduce anxiety symptoms and improve overall functioning in individuals with anxiety disorders.
Depression: EMDR therapy has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression. It can help clients process negative beliefs and memories that contribute to their depressive symptoms and improve their emotional well-being.
Phobias: EMDR therapy has been used to treat various phobias, such as fear of flying, fear of heights, and fear of spiders. Studies have shown that EMDR therapy can help individuals process and resolve the underlying traumatic memories or experiences that contribute to their phobias.
Studies show EMDR can help.
A randomized controlled trial conducted by Bisson et al. (2013) found that EMDR therapy reduced the symptoms of PTSD in 77% of participants after three 90-minute sessions, and 90% of participants no longer met the criteria for PTSD after six sessions.
A meta-analysis conducted by Chen et al. (2014) reviewed 26 studies and found that EMDR therapy significantly reduced PTSD symptoms, with a large effect size of 1.08, which indicates a strong treatment effect.
A study by Hase et al. (2008) found that EMDR therapy reduced symptoms of depression in 74% of participants and improved their overall psychological well-being.
Now, let me explain how EMDR therapy works in more detail:
Assessment: The therapist assesses the client's history and identifies the traumatic memories or experiences that need to be targeted during the EMDR therapy sessions.
Preparation: The therapist helps the client develop coping skills and resources to manage distress and regulate emotions during the therapy sessions.
Desensitization: The therapist uses bilateral stimulation, such as eye movements, hand taps, or auditory tones, while the client focuses on the traumatic memory or experience. This process helps the client process and restructure the memory, reducing its emotional intensity.
Reprocessing: The therapist guides the client through a series of sets of bilateral stimulation and encourages the client to explore new insights and associations related to the memory or experience.
Installation: The therapist helps the client strengthen positive beliefs and adaptive coping skills related to the traumatic memory or experience.
Body Scan: The therapist assists the client in noticing and resolving any remaining physical sensations or discomfort associated with the memory or experience.
Closure: The therapist ensures that the client is in a stable state before ending the session, and provides support as needed.
Reevaluation: In subsequent sessions, the therapist reviews progress and determines next steps.
This short video can provide more on how EMDR works:
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