What is EMDR Therapy?

emdr therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy (commonly referred to as EMDR), is an integrative and comprehensively researched psychotherapy approach that has proven highly effective in the treatment of trauma. EMDR combines a wide variety of established therapeutic methods, and follows a specific set of protocols that have, to date, helped millions of men and women of all ages overcome numerous types of psychological stress.

In 1987, a psychologist by the name of Dr. Francine Shapiro unwittingly observed the fact that certain eye movements had the power to reduce the intensity of overwhelming and unpleasant thoughts (under certain conditions). Dr. Shapiro began studying the significance of eye movements in relation to trauma recovery, and in 1989, she published an article detailing the success she had experienced in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. She suggested that EMDR was an invaluable tool when it came to treating patients of traumatic experience, and since her initial findings surrounding the therapeutic model, EMDR has continued to develop and evolve. Researchers and psychologists from across the world have contributed to the continued growth of this therapeutic technique, and today, EMDR is an instrumental practice when it comes to treating those who have undergone significant trauma.

How Does EMDR Work?

It is difficult to determine exactly how any given method of psychotherapy works within the individual brain. We do know, however, that the brain processes information very differently when an individual is upset or overwhelmed. One particularly traumatic moment may cause an individual to feel as if he or she has been ‘frozen in time’, and re-imagining a traumatic experience may feel just like going through it for the first time – emotionally and physically. Such intense negative memories will likely have a lasting adverse affect on the afflicted individual, resulting in a wide range of personal issues. The way the individual sees the world and interacts with others will be harshly compromised; interpersonal relationships will suffer, as will work performance, physical health, and overall well-being.

It seems as though EMDR has a direct and profound effect on the way that the brain processes information – normal and effective processing is typically resumed after a session, and the afflicted individual no longer relives the event when memories are aroused and the experience is brought to mind. The memory remains, but it causes far less emotional and mental turmoil. It can be discussed with relative impunity. This is the goal of many varying types of trauma therapy. What sets EMDR apart is the fact that it appears to embody what naturally occurs during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, and can successfully help a person to envision disturbing memories in a less distressing and tormenting way. This specific method of physiological therapy boasts extremely high success rates, and has been adopted as an integral part of the Next Chapter program of addiction and trauma recovery.

EMDR – What to Expect

There are 8 main phases of EMDR treatment, and the time it takes to complete treatment will rely on the personal history and co-occurring issues of each individual patient. Complete treatment involves a three-pronged protocol:

  1. Past memories
  2. Present disturbances
  3. Future actions

The predominant goal of EMDR therapy is to thoroughly process the traumatic experiences that are causing personal problems, and to establish new, healthier ways of processing. It is important to understand that ‘processing’ does not merely mean ‘talking about it’, but rather setting up a learning state in which troubling memories can be adequately ‘digested’ and stored somewhere safe and appropriate within the brain. Even though it may not seem like it, there is something useful to be learned from every experience we undergo – no matter how negative. EMDR allows the beneficial components of the experience to be stored, and the detrimental components to be efficiently discarded. The memories will guide in positive and beneficial ways in the future, rather than continuously cause serious and devastating problems. Most negative feelings, thoughts, and behaviors can be directly linked to unresolved past trauma. Undergoing EMDR treatment will leave patients with the ability to better understand their emotions, and with a new perspective on past experiences that will allow for healthy behaviors and interactions.

More information on the 8 main phases of EMDR treatment can be found here. And for more information on the comprehensive addiction and trauma recovery program that Next Chapter offers, please call us today at 1-561-563-8407.