- Recover from trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Relive distress and suffering
- Reprocess disturbing life events
- Change negative self-beliefs
- Overcome panic and phobias
- Conquer your fears, such as flying and driving
- Powerful tool for self-improvement
- Evidence-based and scientifically validated
What is EMDR and How Does it Work?
EMDR is a highly effective treatment for relieving many types of emotional suffering caused by trauma. Psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro developed this innovative trauma therapy in 1987. According to recent estimates, it has helped more than two million people of all ages and with various types of trauma.
During a traumatic situation, our survival instincts take over most of the brain’s functioning. This feature of the brain helps us to survive even in terrible conditions. But sometimes it can block our ability to deal with the traumatic events. Many people who have lived through a trauma have found that some moments of the experience become “frozen in time.” Individuals can become stuck in the images, sensations, feelings, and thoughts that occurred at the time of the trauma. These painful and frozen pieces of memory tend to remain over time.
Years after the traumatic event, you can still be hurting in much the same way as you were the day it happened. Traumatic memories are not only painful when remembered or relived, they can also darken your whole outlook on life.
Researchers do not fully understand why EMDR is effective, but it appears to change how the brain processes information. The result is that it enables individuals to “unfreeze” traumatic memories. Once these memories are unfrozen, the brain can resume processing the traumatic events and begin emotional healing. When EMDR treatment is successful, you no longer reexperience the original feelings, sounds, or sights of the trauma. The memory of what happened still exists, but it has less of an impact, no longer pulling you into the past.
What Takes Place During Treatment?
EMDR is an eight-phase treatment. It begins with gathering information to understand your history and ends with an evaluation of your treatment. We will work together as a team through your entire healing process. After gathering your history, we identify what painful memory or event will be the target for treatment. Once we have identified that memory, we gently distill different aspects of the event and the thoughts associated with it.
The actual processing starts with you focusing on what is called an “alternating bilateral stimulus,” like someone’s hand moving back and forth. At the same time, you are discussing the disturbing memory. The bilateral movement appears to assist with “unfreezing” the memory. EMDR researchers suspect that the EMDR processing is similar to the way the brain works during Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. Internal associations arise, as in dreams, and you can begin to process the memory. This means dealing with the disturbing feelings in a new and more comprehensive way.
I usually use eye movement for this purpose, but sometimes I also use tapping (bilateral auditory stimulation). With eye movement treatment, your eyes track my hand as it moves back and forth across your field of vision. I will ask you to notice whatever comes to mind without controlling or directing the information. There is no right or wrong way to do EMDR; each person processes information differently. Once the memory “unfrozen,” the brain can process the information and emotions associated with the memory. In this way, EMDR enables healing.
The Goal of EMDR
A unique aspect of EMDR is that you will gain insights through your own mental and emotional processing instead of from a therapist’s interpretation. This can be a very empowering experience. It gives you the ability to heal from past traumas, to make meaning from them, and to personally transform them.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions. EMDR can finally free you from past traumas, so that you can move forward to create the life you desire.
Twenty positive, controlled-outcome studies have shown EMDR to be highly effective. Several studies show that 84-90% of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions. Another study, funded by the HMO Kaiser Permanente, found that 100% of the single-trauma victims and 77% of the multiple trauma victims were free of PTSD after only six 50-minute sessions. In another study, 77% of combat veterans were free of PTSD in 12 sessions.
Research supports the use of EMDR as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The method is used by the American Psychiatric Association, the US Department of Defense, the US Veterans Administration, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, and government agencies around the world. EMDR has also been effective for the treatment of panic disorder and many phobias.
Why I Choose It
I am trained and experienced in the use of several effective trauma therapy methods, but my preferred treatment technique is EMDR. It is the most comprehensive and powerful method I have encountered. Using EMDR, I have had the amazing experience of witnessing people finally moving beyond the horrors of their past and recovering from them. I find that EMDR frequently takes much less time than other techniques to be effective. This therapy offers you a combination of well-established therapeutic methods, including exposure, mindfulness, cognitive, and self-control techniques. I appreciate that EMDR provides a protocol and allows for a structured individual treatment plan that is tailored to meet every person’s unique need.
Number Of Sessions
The number of treatment sessions required varies depending on the issues being addressed, on your history, and on your personal treatment response. As with all therapies and with so many things in life, there is no guarantee. If you are working on a single traumatic event, it can typically be resolved in five or six sessions. EMDR will take longer if you are dealing with multiple traumas or a long history of abuse or neglect, or if you are currently in an unsafe environment,