Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR therapy, is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro in 1987 that has been gaining popularity in recent years. It treats various mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. EMDR therapy is based on the theory that traumatic memories are not processed properly and are stored in an unprocessed form.
EMDR therapy aims to help the person reprocess these memories so that they are no longer causing distress.
Find the location that works for you.
It’s hard to decide what kind of treatment you need when struggling with PTSD, but help is available. Zinnia Health offers a variety of evidence-based therapies for trauma and other mental health disorders, including EMDR. Call us 24/7 at (855) 430-9439.
What Is EMDR Therapy, and How Does It Work?
EMDR therapy is a type of psychotherapy that uses eye movements to help the person process and reprocess memories and may be performed online or in person.
EMDR therapy is one way to help address difficult memories that may be unconsciously stored in the brain. This type of therapy is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model. The AIP model states that when we have an experience, our brain processes it through its information-processing system.
This allows us to understand the event and store it in our memory.
The brain’s processing method can be interrupted by traumatic events, and memories become distorted as a result. This causes dysfunctional thinking, emotions, and sensations related to past experiences.
Reprocessing these memories during treatment sessions can retrain the brain to store information properly.
To do so, an EMDR therapist will guide a patient’s eyes back and forth across a visual field. As the patient does this, they are instructed to focus on the specific thought, memory, or feeling causing their distress.
The therapist will also provide bilateral stimulation, which can come in the form of auditory (e.g., tones), tactile (e.g., taps), or visual (e.g., flashing lights) stimuli.
By repeatedly exposing the person to the memory while providing bilateral stimulation, the brain will re-evaluate the emotions and thoughts associated with the traumatic experience.
During this re-evaluation, the brain will reorganize memories in a more beneficial way. This can lead to a decrease in the intensity of negative thoughts and feelings related to the experience and an increase in positive emotions.
It is important to note that EMDR therapy is not a guaranteed cure for all PTSD or other mental health conditions. However, it can be an effective treatment option for many people who have experienced trauma or are struggling with anxiety disorder, depression, or other difficulties.
If you are interested in learning more about EMDR therapy and whether it may be suitable for you, please speak with a mental health professional.
What Happens During an EMDR Session?
During an EMDR session, the therapist will ask the person to think about a specific memory or event that is causing distress. The therapist will then guide the person’s eyes back and forth across a visual field.
The therapist may also provide other forms of stimulation, such as tapping or auditory sounds. This aims to help the person process and reprocess the memory or event.
What Are the Eight Stages of EMDR Therapy?
The general structure of EMDR therapy consists of eight key stages of treatment. The eight stages of EMDR are as follows:
- History and treatment planning: The therapist will ask the person about their medical and mental health history as well as key life experiences that may have cause the initial trauma. They will also develop a treatment plan.
- Preparation: The therapist will explain the EMDR therapy process to the person and help them to identify a targeted memory or disturbing event to focus on during treatment.
- Assessment: The therapist will assess the person’s negative beliefs and current level of distress.
- Desensitization: The therapist will guide the person’s eyes back and forth across a visual field while they focus on the memory or event causing distress. This is done to help the person reprocess the memory.
- Installation: The therapist will provide bilateral stimulation (e.g., tapping, auditory sounds) while the person focuses on a positive belief, thought or image. This is done to help the person develop a more positive association with the memory.
- Body scan: The therapist will ask the person to focus on each part of their body, starting from their toes and moving up to their head. This aims to help the person become aware of any physical sensations they are experiencing.
- Closure: The therapist will provide support and guidance as the person completes the EMDR therapy session. Due to the emotionally challenging nature of EMDR, it is important to have a closure plan in place so that the patient safely readjusts to the present moment.
- Re-evaluation: The therapist will assess the person’s progress and determine whether additional sessions are necessary. Progress is typically measured by the person’s level of distress associated with the memory or event. Through constant re-evaluation, the therapist can gauge whether the person is ready to move on to the next stage of treatment.
These are the eight standard stages of EMDR therapy, although therapists may tailor the approach to meet the needs of their clients.
Related: The 8 Phases of EMDR Explained
Who Can Facilitate EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy can be done by any mental health professional trained in the technique, including therapists, counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists.
You should ask your therapist if they have been trained in EMDR therapy before you book an appointment.
What Are the Benefits of EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy potentially has multiple benefits, including:
- Reducing symptoms of PTSD: Several studies have found that EMDR therapy can effectively reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Helping to process memories: EMDR therapy may help people reprocess memories and events causing distress.
- Improving mental health: In general, EMDR therapy has been found to improve mental health outcomes, including reducing anxiety and depression.
- Improving sleep: As a result of reducing symptoms of PTSD, EMDR therapy may also enhance sleep quality.
- Increasing self-esteem and confidence: EMDR therapy may help people to develop a more positive view of themselves.
These are just some of the potential benefits of EMDR therapy.
Related: Benefits of EMDR Therapy
Discuss all potential benefits and risks with your therapist if you are considering this type of therapy.
How Many EMDR Sessions Are Typically Needed?
The number of sessions needed will vary from person to person, and some people may only need a few sessions, while others may need more.
It is essential to discuss your goals for therapy with your therapist so that you can create a treatment plan that is right for you.
Related: How Long Does EMDR Therapy Take?
How Is EMDR Different From Traditional Talk Therapy?
EMDR therapy is different from traditional talk therapy because it relies on physical movement to help the person reduce or eliminate their distress. EMDR is more of a sensory-based approach, while talk therapy focuses more on verbal communication.
Talk therapy can help the patient understand their thoughts and emotions, while EMDR therapy can help the patient reprocess memories. EMDR and traditional talk therapy can be effective treatments for mental health conditions.
EMDR therapy has helped many people find relief from PTSD, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. If you are considering this type of therapy, Zinnia Health can help. Contact us today at (855) 430-9439 to learn more.
Related: Is EMDR Evidence Based?
What Should I Expect During an EMDR Session?
During an EMDR session, you can expect your therapist to ask you about a specific memory or event that is causing distress. The therapist will then guide your eyes back and forth across a visual field.
The therapist may also provide other forms of stimulation, such as tapping or auditory sounds. This aims to help you process and reprocess the memory or event.
By the end of the session, or in the following days afterwards, you should feel a reduction in distress. If you do not, your therapist may adjust the approach or plan for additional sessions.
What Is the Difference Between EMDR and Other Types of Therapy?
EMDR therapy is different from other types of treatment in that it explicitly uses eye movements to help the person reprocess memories.
Here are the main differences between EMDR therapy and some of the most common types of treatment:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT helps people change their thoughts and behaviors through techniques such as cognitive restructuring and exposure therapy. EMDR therapy uses eye exercises to help people reprocess memories, while CBT does not. EMDR and CBT can be effective treatments for mental health conditions, and they may be used together or separately depending on the individual’s needs.
- Psychodynamic Therapy:Psychodynamic therapy focuses on exploring the unconscious mind. By using methods of self-exploration, people can understand and resolve their past issues. EMDR therapy is similar to psychodynamic treatment because it helps people explore past experiences. However, EMDR therapy doesn’t use traditional methods such as free association and interpretation.
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a type of therapy that focuses on helping people improve their emotional regulation skills. DBT therapy emphasizes relationships and social interactions, which can occur in group settings. EMDR therapy is similar to DBT in that it helps people regulate their emotions. However, EMDR therapy is one-on-one and does not necessarily involve group settings.
- Somatic Experiencing (SE): SE is a therapy that focuses on helping people process and heal from traumatic experiences. SE uses techniques such as mindfulness, movement, grounding, and breathing exercises. SE aims to help people establish stronger connections between their minds and bodies. EMDR therapy is similar to SE because it helps people process and heal from traumatic experiences. However, EMDR therapy exclusively uses bilateral eye stimulation, whereas SE uses various techniques.
Why Is EMDR Controversial?
EMDR therapy is considered to be controversial for multiple reasons.
- More research is necessary on this topic: While many people swear by EMDR, there’s still not a ton of scientific research to back it up. However, there are countless anecdotal reports of people who have found EMDR helpful.
- It may only be effective for trauma-related problems: EMDR is most successful in treating patients with trauma and anxiety. However, this therapy may not be as helpful if you are experiencing depression, acute stress disorder, or other mental illnesses.
- It’s unclear how EMDR works: There is still much speculation surrounding how EMDR works. Although there are indications that the theory may hold some truth, it has yet to be fully verified.
- May only disassociate patients from their memories: Some people worry that EMDR may only serve to disassociate patients from their memories rather than help them process and heal from them. Without healing the trauma directly, the long-term effectiveness of EMDR is called into question.
EMDR therapy can be emotionally challenging for some people as it requires them to revisit difficult memories or events. For this reason, working with a qualified mental health clinician who can provide support and guidance during EMDR treatment is essential.
How to Find a Therapist Trained in EMDR Therapy
If you believe that EMDR Therapy could be helpful for you, it is essential to find a therapist who is trained in this approach.
With so many different types of therapy available, it can be challenging to choose the right one for you. Each type of therapy has its strengths and weaknesses, and some may align better with your needs than others.
We at Zinnia Health understand this, which is why we work with you to create a customized treatment plan tailored specifically for you.
If you’re interested in learning more about EMDR therapy or any of the other types of treatment we offer, please contact us today at (855) 430-9439 to speak to a call center agent any time of day.
More Psychotherapy Options
These are other types of psychotherapies available: