How does EMDR work?
No one knows how any form of psychotherapy works neurobiologically or in the brain. However, we do know that when a person is very upset, their brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. One moment becomes “frozen in time” and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time because the images, sounds, smells and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories have a long lasting negative effect that interferes with a way a person sees the world and how they relate to people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
What kind of problems does EMDR treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for Post-traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions:
*Body dysmorphic disorders
What does EMDR Treatment look like?
EMDR is an 8-phased approach which includes history taking and establishing coping techniques. Bilateral stimulation (which can include eye movements, taps or tones) are utilized to process through visual imagery, negative beliefs and related emotions and body sensations.
How long does EMDR take?
The amount of time the complete treatment will take depends upon the history of the client. Complete treatment involves a three- pronged protocol- past memories, present disturbance, future actions- and are needed to alleviate the symptoms and address the complete clinical picture. The goal is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems and to include new ones that are needed for full healthy. Processing means setting up a learning state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be “digested” and stores appropriately in your brain. That means 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. These are usually 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.
Adapted from EMDRIA.org - The official website of the EMDR International Association. Creating global healing, health, and hope.