Eye Movement Desensitization Processing (EMDR) Therapy
What is EMDR?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach with 8 treatment phases. It has been extensively researched and is considered the gold standard for Trauma treatment. EMDR has a set of standardized protocols incorporating elements from several treatment approaches. Through its eight phases, its deliberate focus on past, present and future memories and content, EMDR can foster mindfulness, increased presence in the here and now, emotional tolerance, self-compassion, and personal growth.
Many times, you may not know what has caused the traumatic feelings. This is common, EMDR supports us to become gentle observers and curious investigators of the source of the traumatic feelings, thoughts and experiences which are often noticed as body sensations.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process the memories and experiences causing the problems, to include new memories to restore wellness and balance in the brain, mind and body. It’s important to understand that processing doesn’t mean talking about the traumatic event. It does, however, mean creating a state where these emotions and memories can be absorbed, stored properly in the brain and relieved of their emotional charge.
How does EMDR work?
EMDR is designed to help you move past your past without excessive talking about the painful events or reexperiencing them. It is a form of exposure, whereas you do focus on specific aspects of the traumatic memory in a controlled manner. It is unique as it focuses on past events and experiences and their impact on the here and now. Once the unpleasant emotional charge of the memories has been removed, we focus on the future and how you would like to feel if faced with a similar circumstance.
We work together to be sure you remain within your Window of Tolerance as much as possible. It is normal to experience challenging feelings at times during the EMDR Process. Our goal is to minimize this and provide you with extensive distress tolerance tools to better ride the waves of distress.
Key Important EMDR Terms and Processes
Eye Movement: One of the key aspects of EMDR Therapy is bilateral stimulation – two things are stimulated at the same time. One method of bilateral stimulation are eye movements which involve you following the EMDR Therapist’s fingers back and forth though your field of vision. Bilateral stimulation allows you to safely access disturbing memories to begin reducing the distressing impact in your life. This process then leads to desensitization (reduction) and reprocessing of those thoughts and images (explained below).
“The eye movements we use in EMDR seem to unlock the nervous system and allow the brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep—the eye movements may help to process the unconscious material. It is important to remember that it is your own brain that will be doing the healing and that you are the one in control”. ~Luber
Adaptive Information Processing
The foundation of EMDR Therapy is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) Model which classifies, processes and integrates information in an ongoing manner. Traumatic memory is stored differently than normal memory – it lacks language and rational understanding. Therefore, it is stored as sensory information – what you felt emotionally and physically at the time. These sensory traumatic memories form traumatic information networks, which are unable to participate with adaptive memory networks.
Balancing dual attention where you focus on an aspect of a memory and bi-lateral stimulation supports your brain to access and process traumatic, distressing content stuck within the brain’s neural network. Bilateral stimulation can be experienced through eye movements, through tappers which emit a vibration, through a light bar and by listening to bilateral sounds with earphones.
There are eight phases of EMDR treatment:
Phase One: History and Treatment Planning – This usually takes 1-2 sessions at the beginning of therapy and continues throughout the therapy process. The therapist takes a thorough history of the client and develops a treatment plan. This includes a discussion of the reasons that brought you to therapy, problematic behaviors stemming from the issues and any symptoms. You will also complete computer questionnaires to better understand the impact in your life.
With this information, the therapist will create a treatment plan with you that clearly identifies the specific targets for EMDR. Targets include events from the past that created the problem, the present situations that are being impacted and creating distress, and the skills you will need to develop and learn for your well-being.
With EMDR Therapy, you will not need to discuss disturbing memories in detail. Five pieces of information are identified per distressing aspect for reprocessing. These five pieces of information can be remembered using the acronym TICES: Target memory or issue, Image that best describes the target, a Negative Cognition regarding the event, Emotions and where they are located in the body and the intensity is rated using a 1-10 rating scale.
Phase Two: Preparation – During the preparation phase, you are taught key skills to help you strengthen your distress tolerance skills. We make sure you have the skills needed to take care of yourself during sessions as well as in between sessions.
Phase Three: Assessment – I will guide you to in identifying the targets causing the most distress, know as target sequencing. We look for patterns of thoughts and identify the TICES of each target. This can take several sessions depending on the complexity of the situation.
Reprocessing – The next phases encompass reprocessing of the traumatic memories, which doesn’t require talking about them very much. Using information gathered, you will be guided to focus on key aspects such as the image, the negative cognition and the what you are feeling in your body as bilateral stimulation is started.
Phase Four: Desensitization – This a type of safe, brief and well managed exposure therapy where we begin working on the targets identified previously. Using the TICES information, you’ll be guided to recall the negative thought you have about yourself (I’m helpless) , to visualize the mental picture of the memory, to name the emotions and body sensations and provide an overall rating. Next, we begin using bilateral stimulation using eye movements, tappers or a light bar and you may listen to bilateral music – the sounds alternates between the right and left ear.
This part of EMDR may bring up upsetting emotions. I work with you to make sure you are able to tolerate these feelings. Most people whom can continue the desensitization report tremendous relief. I monitor you closely to assure you are able to manage the feelings that may surface.
Phase Five: Installation – The goal is to identify a positive belief to replace the previously identified negative belief connected to the target. We want you to fully accept the positive belief as true. EMDR cannot replace appropriately negative thoughts, nor would we want to do so. Sometimes, it is necessary to take action to fully believe the positive thought is true. You might need to take a self-defense class or move to a new home to fully accept the new, positive belief.
Phase Six: Body Scan – The body is the container of traumatic memories. During assessment and desensitization we identify body sensations associated with the traumatic memory and closely monitor them. At this phase, you will be guided to scan or observe your body to determine if any bodily signs of distress connected to the memory are present.
Phase Seven: Closure – The end of the session is designed to ensure you leave feeling comfortable and within your Window of Tolerance. It is ended with an extended period of relaxation and instructions to manage any feelings that may resurface in between appointments.
Phase Eight: Reevaluation – at the beginning of each session, we will reassess the previous targeted information to determine if has any remaining distress. If you are aware of any lingering distress, reprocessing will be used to eliminate it. If there isn’t any distress, we will move on to the next identified distressing event.
What does EMDR treat?
The research has shown EMDR is effective for treating Trauma. It has also been effective in treating:
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Traumatic and Complicated Grief
- Past and Recent Trauma
- Panic Attacks
- Generalized Anxiety
- Eating Disorders
Where can I learn more about EMDR Therapy?
EMDR International Association (EMDRIA): http://www.emdria.org
EMDR Institute: http://www.EMDR.com
Learn More about EMDR Therapy in CT
The Center for NeuroPotential is located in Branford, CT. We are right off of the beautiful Branford Green and are only 10 minutes from New Haven.
Call us at 475-221-8142 for a free 15-minute consultation!