EMDR therapy was developed by Francine Shapiro. It started in 1988 and has since become a popular form of mental health treatment. EMDR helps people who have experienced severe trauma in their lives. Traumatic events have a way of sticking with people. It's difficult to function when you're experiencing flashbacks to your trauma. It can be disruptive to your daily routine. During EMDR therapy, the client has an opportunity to confront their trauma in a safe environment. The individual recalls upsetting or distressing images while the therapist moves their finger back and forth in front of the client's eyes to encourage rapid eye movement stimulation. This side-by-side rapid eye movement of EMDR therapy is a type of bilateral stimulation. Another way that EMDR therapy is conducted is through hand tapping. The therapist guides the client to tap places on their body that stimulate brain activity while discussing their traumatic experiences. EMDR therapy helps help people with trauma and can treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. EMDR therapy uses eye movements and helps the person recall the different memories they have surrounding trauma to desensitize themselves to these distressing memories.
The way EMDR therapy works is relatively straightforward. The client is asked to recall their traumatic experience. The therapist asks the person to tap or move their eyes while recalling said trauma or traumas. EMDR therapy helps the mind heal from psychological trauma as well as the body. If you think about it as a wound, trauma injures the body, and the mind and EMDR therapy help heal that gash on both levels. The statistics show that it works. According to Kaiser Permanente (a healthcare company), 100% of trauma victims and 77% of people that experience complex trauma benefited from EMDR therapy. It also is a helpful tool in aiding war Veterans and soldiers at large.
When you learn about EMDR therapy, you often hear the term bilateral stimulation. What that means is the therapist helps a client stimulate both parts of their brain. The way this is accomplished is the client tracks different stimuli with their eyes. For example, an EMDR therapist moves their finger back and forth while the client follows it to stimulate different parts of the mind. Tapping is another example of bilateral stimulation. The therapist shows the client where to tap on their body to stimulate their brain. Some therapists use light sources to help the client engage in bilateral stimulation. The individual in treatment will follow the light back-and-forth with their eyes to engage different brain hemispheres. Bilateral stimulation is a significant part of the phases of EMDR therapy.
EMDR therapy has eight phases. An individual must be ready to move from one phase to the next. People need to understand when they engage in EMDR counseling/therapy, it is an intense process. The person has to be ready to confront their trauma. It's important to note that a therapist will spend a long time gaining background information on the client's traumatic experience before using bilateral stimulation and confronting the trauma.
Here are the different stages of this treatment. You can see the gradual development of EMDR treatment and how these stages help individuals heal from trauma.
Assessment. During phase three, the client selects a specific memory or mental picture to target during the EMDR therapy treatment. Then the client is asked to choose a statement or a negative connotation that they have about their trauma. For example, one negative mantra or association could be, "It was my fault," or "I'm a bad person." Then the client chooses a positive statement to replace or reframe this statement, such as, "I don't have control over what happened to me, but I can heal," or "I did the best that I could." During phase three, the therapist asks the client on a scale of 1-7 how much they believe the statement. One means that the statement is false, and seven means it feels entirely true. In this way, one identifies how much they believe the negative statement. The other thing that happens during the EMDR therapy assessment is the client talks about the emotions that accompany the trauma and the belief system.
Additionally, they rate their beliefs using subjective units of disturbance (or SUD) from 0-10. 0 meaning it doesn't disturb you at all, and ten meaning it's the worst thing you've ever experienced. Now you are dealing with reprocessing. If you're talking about a single traumatic event, it takes around three sessions of EMDR therapy to make headway. However, it can take longer with a complex traumatic situation.
Desensitization. During this phase, the client focuses on their distressing emotion and how they feel, and the therapist measures the SUD. The therapist helps the client, utilizing the different eye movements or tapping techniques while starting with the target memory and moving forward from there.
Installation. During installation, it's time to strengthen the positive belief by doing away with the negative sentiment and replacing it with an affirmative one. The therapist aims to instill in the client the validity of cognition or VOC. So, the goal is to help the person get to a level of truth, keeping in mind that 0 = I don't believe it at all, and 7 = I believe it is entirely true. One thing to note about EMDR therapy is that one cannot completely and utterly erase negative thoughts and memories. Still, you can help yourself feel better, and you can begin to change your relationship to specific ideas or memories.
Closure. During phase seven of EMDR therapy, the client gets back to a state of grounding. The therapist continues to use bilateral stimulation, i.e., the back and forth eye movements, and ends the session by taking the client out of the memory, thereby helping them come back to a sense of stasis.
Anybody who has experienced a traumatic event or complex trauma can potentially benefit from EMDR counseling. EMDR is a process that helps people let go of negative thoughts and experiences surrounding their trauma and get to a place of acceptance.
EMDR counseling can be intense, so it is important to use the beginning phases, as mentioned above. In this way, the therapist may prepare the client accordingly to know what they are getting into. The client must be ready psychologically to process the memories and feelings that EMDR counseling sessions can elicit to don't get themselves in over their head.
It's crucial to talk to your therapist about your trauma to understand whether or not EMDR counseling is an appropriate form of treatment for you. You can learn more about EMDR counseling by consulting with a licensed mental health professional and deciding if you're ready to engage in this treatment process.
You can read about EMDR counseling online and talk to a licensed mental health professional about it. If you have experienced significant trauma, EMDR counseling could be right for you.
Consider meeting with an online mental health professional and discussing the best trauma treatment for you presently and whether EMDR therapy might be right for you. BetterHelp has a great network of therapists, and you can learn more about online therapy if you click here.
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