what is EMDR?

 

EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It is a type of psychotherapy that was developed in the late 1980s by psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro. Extensive research has shown that EMDR is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related conditions. The therapy involves a structured approach to help individuals process traumatic memories and reduce the distress and negative symptoms associated with them.

 

There is a connection between EMDR and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is a phase of sleep characterized by quick eye movements, vivid dreaming, and increased brain activity. REM sleep is believed to play a role in memory consolidation and emotional processing. The precise mechanisms by which EMDR therapy works are not fully understood, but the connection between EMDR and REM sleep suggests that it may involve the brain's natural processing and integration of traumatic events.

 

Overall, EMDR aims to help people process traumatic memories in a safe and controlled environment, leading to a reduction in distress and negative symptoms associated with the traumatic event. Many patients experience significant reductions in symptoms after just a few sessions.

 

what happens during an EMDR session?

 

During EMDR therapy, you will focus on a specific traumatic memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation of the brain. This can be done through eye movements, sounds, or physical sensations. Here's a step-by-step description of what you can expect during a session:

  • Assessment: During the first session, we'll talk about why you're seeking therapy and what you hope to achieve. I'll ask some questions about your background and any traumatic events you've experienced. Then, we'll discuss the EMDR process and I'll answer any questions you have.
  • Preparation: Before we start the EMDR process, I'll help you develop some coping skills and relaxation techniques. These might include breathing exercises or visualization techniques. 
  • Identifying Target Memories: Once you feel comfortable and prepared, we'll focus on the specific memory or event that you want to work on. We'll talk about the negative belief, emotion, and physical sensation that you associate with that memory.
  • Bilateral Stimulation: During this step, I'll ask you to follow my fingers or listen to alternating sounds while holding the memory in mind. We'll continue the bilateral stimulation until your distress level associated with the memory decreases. Throughout the process, I'll check in with you to see how you're feeling and ask you to share any thoughts or feelings that come up.
  • Desensitization: As the bilateral stimulation continues, you'll notice that the intensity of the negative emotions associated with the memory starts to decrease. We'll keep going until you feel like you can think about the memory without feeling overwhelmed.
  • Integration: Once the distress associated with the memory decreases, we'll work on installing a positive belief or feeling related to the memory. For example, we might focus on feeling empowered or confident in your ability to handle similar situations in the future.
  • Closure: We'll end the session with a calming exercise, such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation, to help you feel grounded and centered. We'll also review techniques that you can use between sessions.

is EMDR a good fit for me?

 

EMDR therapy can be an effective treatment for a wide range of psychological issues related to traumatic experiences, such as:

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Childhood trauma or abuse
  • Sexual abuse 
  • Accidents
  • Chronic pain or illness related to trauma
  • Grief or loss related to trauma

EMDR therapy may also be suitable for individuals who have difficulty processing traumatic experiences and who may feel stuck or overwhelmed by painful memories, emotions, and physical sensations associated with these experiences. However, it's important to note that EMDR may not be appropriate for everyone, which is why the session(s) should be integrated in a (short-term) therapy. Everyone's experience with EMDR therapy may differ, and the number of sessions required will depend on the complexity of the trauma and individual factors.