• Sonya Deol

The Benefits of EMDR Therapy



What is EMDR Therapy?


You may have heard the term as it is quickly becoming a sought after treatment. EMDR Therapy, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy, is a recognized and effective treatment that is used to help people heal from trauma by resolving unprocessed memories in the brain. Simply put, it is about using the brain's natural healing abilities to move through the trauma.


"This [natural healing] process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion)". (EMDRIA, 2022)


Many times, a traumatic event is processed appropriately by our brain so that it doesn't leave a distressing impact. But sometimes the traumatic memory can become "stuck" in time and become activated whenever there is a reminder, which can increase our distress. This is because our biological stress response, most commonly known as the "fight-flight-freeze" response, has been triggered. Through EMDR therapy, the brain is able to process these memories so that the fight-flight-freeze response is no longer activated. This doesn't mean that the experience is forgotten, it just won't have a disturbing emotional response attached to it anymore.


To learn more about how EMDR therapy started and its founder, Dr. Francine Shapiro, please visit www.emdria.org.



Who can EMDR Therapy be used for?


People of all ages can benefit from EMDR therapy because it addresses a range of concerns:

  • Anxiety/stress

  • Chronic pain

  • Depression

  • Dissociative disorders

  • Eating disorders

  • Grief/loss

  • Personality disorders

  • PTSD

  • Sexual assault

  • Substance use

  • Violence/abuse

What happens in an EMDR Therapy session?


You and your therapist decide together if EMDR therapy is a good fit for what you want to work through. There is a protocol of eight phases to follow:

  • Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning

  • Phase 2: Preparation

  • Phase 3: Assessment

  • Phase 4: Desensitization

  • Phase 5: Installation

  • Phase 6: Body Scan

  • Phase 7: Closure

  • Phase 8: Reevaluation

Many people think of EMDR therapy as only the desensitization phase (Phase 4), however, the most important phase may be the preparation phase (Phase 2). You and your therapist work on making sure you are ready and have the best coping tools to manage distress before reprocessing any traumatic memories.


Once you and your therapist feel you are ready to move onto the next phases, you will choose a specific event to focus on. The negative image, belief, emotion, and body feeling associated to this event will be identified, as well as a positive belief that is desired once resolved.

Your therapist will use sets of side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps while you focus on the distressing event. You might notice that the images, feelings, or beliefs related to the event change after each set. The sets continue until the event feels less troubling.


Remember, you are in control and can stop your therapist anytime if needed!



Does EMDR Therapy Work Faster Than Other Therapies?


Because EMDR therapy on its own is not a talk therapy, it has been shown to take less sessions to resolve certain traumas. However, processing a traumatic event can take anywhere from one to many sessions as it depends on a client’s history. EMDR therapy can also be used along with other talk therapies.


What Does “Reprocessing” Mean?


In EMDR therapy, “reprocessing” means helping your brain to learn how to store traumatic experiences appropriately. You will be able to keep only the information that is useful from a certain event and which guides your behaviour in positive and healthy ways. This can be transformative as it leads to greater understanding and inner peace.



References:


EMDRIA: EMDR International Association (2022). www.emdria.org


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