EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitization And ReProcessing Therapy is based on the theory that painful memories remain unprocessed in our memory and that neurological changes done through eye movement can assist the patient in recovering . A number of studies have demonstrated that EMDR can alleviate symptoms more rapidly than talk therapy alone. The patient usually reflects on a memory while focusing on an external stimulus such as a finger, a light bar, taps or tones. Because discussing details of a trauma is not required in EMDR, the anxiety associated with revealing those details may be alleviated.
Your parasympathetic systems oversee the relaxation response – which is also known as the calming response or the regenerative response. All healing takes place in this restorative system. Blood pressure drops, heart rate goes down, blood sugar regulates, heart rate variability (HRV) goes up, and immune function strengthens. That’s why it’s extremely important to create habits in daily life that activate this branch while creating a more calm sympathetic nervous system.
Many of us struggle with stress, anxiety or depression. Some of us may be dealing with
trauma and have undergone a range of therapies in an attempt to shift the symptoms
that accompany our memories of what happened.
Others may not be aware of what’s driving our discomfort; we may simply feel a general
malaise and be completely mystified as to why we’re not happy and grateful as so many
other people appear to be.
And some of us are simply conscious that maintaining emotional balance within our lives
involves daily work. And whether we feel good or bad, fatigued or energised, our lives
are an ongoing healing process.
Each of the above is a perfect reason to reach out to Eye Movement Desensitisation and
Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. Why? Because the wonder of this therapy is that it suits
an array of people with different states of mind. And better yet, once you follow through
on the process, it isn’t complicated.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy developed by Francine Shapiro starting in 1988 in which the person being treated is asked to recall distressing images; the therapist then directs the patient in one type of bilateral stimulation, such as side-to-side eye movements or hand tapping. According to the 2013 World Health Organization practice guideline: “This therapy [EMDR] is based on the idea that negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours are the result of unprocessed memories. The treatment involves standardized procedures that include focusing simultaneously on (a) spontaneous associations of traumatic images, thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations and (b) bilateral stimulation that is most commonly in the form of repeated eye movements.”
EMDR is included in several evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). As of 2020, the American Psychological Association lists EMDR as an evidence-based treatment for PTSD but stresses that “the available evidence can be interpreted in several ways” and notes there is debate about the precise mechanism by which EMDR appears to relieve PTSD symptoms with some evidence EMDR may simply be a variety of exposure therapy.
The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the history of the client. Complete treatment of the targets involves a three pronged protocol to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture:
- past memories
- present disturbance
- future actions
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health.
“Processing” does not mean talking about it. “Processing” means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stored appropriately in your brain. That means that what is useful to you from an experience will be learned, and stored with appropriate emotions in your brain, and be able to guide you in positive ways in the future.
The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Negative emotions, feelings and behaviors are generally caused by unresolved earlier experiences that are pushing you in the wrong directions. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave you with the emotions, understanding, and perspectives that will lead to healthy and useful behaviors and interactions.
Although EMDR therapy may produce results more rapidly than previous forms of therapy, speed is not the issue and it is important to remember that every client has different needs. For instance, one client may take weeks to establish sufficient feelings of trust (Phase 2), while another may proceed quickly through the first six phases of treatment only to reveal something even more important that needs treatment.