EMDR therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches (EMDRIA – EMDR International Association, 2016).
The EMDR Process
EMDR is a phase oriented treatment that takes place over 8 steps/phases. The complete treatment of a target involves a 3 pronged protocol involving the reprocessing of past memories, present disturbances and future behaviours.
EMDR Frequently Asked Questions
• How does EMDR help?
Traumatic experiences changes our nervous system and it goes in a state of “high alert”. As a result, we experience flashbacks, anxiety, and distressing memories when reminded of the event. Avoiding people, places, situations, and/or things that remind of the event, becomes a way in which we deal with the experience.
Traumatic experiences also shatter our assumptions of how the world operates or how life is. For example, before the traumatic event you may think “I am safe”. However, after a traumatic event our beliefs are shaken and we can start thinking “I am unsafe”, “I am helpless” and so on. You may be trying to logically tell yourself that this is not true, perhaps your family is telling that this is not true, but these beliefs are “stuck” in your nervous system and you are feeling distress. EMDR helps us to resolve the trauma and shift our beliefs.
• What are common reasons clients come for EMDR therapy?
Scientific research has established EMDR as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress. Clinicians also report success using EMDR with issues like Panic Attacks, Complicated Grief, Dissociative Disorders, Disturbing Memories, Phobias, Pain Disorders, Performance Anxiety, Stress Reduction, Addictions, Sexual and/or Physical Abuse, Body Dysmorphic Disorders, Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, and others.
• How can I prepare for the sessions?
The most important first step in EMDR, and trauma therapy in general, is ensuring that you have strategies and skills that you can use to manage the painful feelings and memories that may emerge in therapy. It is only when you and your therapist decide that you are ready you can move on to the traumatic memories. The goal is to empower you and help you face the painful memories in small pieces and at a pace that is manageable for you and not overwhelming.
• What can I expect during sessions? Traumatic memories seem too painful to have to go through, do I need to re-live them?
The actual reprocessing of the memory is helped by bilateral eye movements, tactile, or auditory stimulations, while you are thinking about it. In a way that we do not fully understand, the intense memories and feelings become less distressing and lose their charge. EMDR does not erase the memories but makes them feel like something from the past that does not affect you strongly as before.
• How long will it generally take? What if I have multiple traumatic events to deal with?
It depends on a number of factors, including how many traumas you have had. In general, the more traumas you have experienced the longer the therapeutic process. You and your therapist can decide together on which memories to process and in what order. People usually report positive changes in few sessions.
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