Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an empirically proven psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of trauma from a disturbing life experience. EMDR therapy is recognized as one of the most effective forms of trauma treatment in numerous practice guidelines worldwide. In the US, this includes organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association and Department of Defense. More than twenty randomized studies support the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in the treatment of trauma.
A traumatic experience is unexpected and unpredictable, uncontrollable, and terrifying. Emotional responses to traumatic experience are often overwhelming and may include terror, helplessness, and extreme physiological arousal that do not lead to purposeful and effective reactions. These emotional responses often coincide, leading to overwhelmed, confused, and out of control feelings. Trauma like this stops the brain from processing ordinarily which leads to nightmares, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and anxiety that continues to increase.
In addition to traumatic experiences EMDR is used to treat children and adults with the following:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Panic attacks
- Performance anxiety
- Physical or sexual abuse, rape
- Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID)
- Complicated grief
- Disturbing memories
- Personality disorders
- Experiences of bullying
- Witnessing a violent act
- Military trauma
- Post surgical medical trauma
What is an EMDR therapy session like? A therapist specially trained in EMDR guides a person through an eight phase intervention which starts with the history of the experience and a treatment plan. EMDR may not be sufficient treatment utilized alone and may be utilized in conjunction with other psychotherapy treatments.
In the desensitization phase the person’s own rapid, rhythmic eye movements are used to allow the brain to process the experience. Once the brain can process the experience negative emotions are weakened. To read more about the eight phases go to the EMDR Association website here.
Providers of this treatment must have extensive training and certification to practice EMDR.
Additional information can be found in Clinical Director Susan Mtchell’s article Successful EMDR Treatment for Brain Change Caused by Traumatic Experience.