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What is EMDR & Who Is It For?

EMDR therapy

The world of psychology and psychologists continues to expand with every passing day, or so it seems to those on the outside looking in. Mentioning the likes of Freud and other classical psychologists will often elicit a negative response from those who have been studying modern theories.

Nowadays, there are many intersections of knowledge necessary to create a complete picture of the individual’s psyche. The likes of couples counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy and EMDR therapy are what is now in focus for modern therapists and psychologists. Today, we look at EMDR therapy, in particular, and try to unearth some of the mysteries behind this new and interesting form of psychotherapy.

What is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an interactive technique for reducing or relieving psychological stress or trauma. You work in conjunction with a trained therapist to recall traumatic events while making directed eye movements.

How Does EMDR Therapy Affect the Brain?

Our brain’s natural recovery method involves communication between three separate parts of your brain, which are the hippocampus, prefrontal cortex and amygdala. These sections work together to relive the traumatic moment and “unfreeze it from time,” thereby allowing your brain to naturally heal the event and move forward.

Consider your body’s stress response wherein it chooses to either run or stay in place. If the mind gets frozen in this state, it can affect the healing process. Reordering these memories to be just that, past events, can be

What is EMDR Therapy Effective For?

EMDR therapy is only proven to be effective for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at this time. But, it has been used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders and addictions. According to emdria.org, there may be efficacy for the following difficulties, disorders and detriments also:

  • Bipolar disorders
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Performance anxiety
  • Sexual, physical, mental assault
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse and addiction
EMDR therapy

Is EMDR Therapy Painful?

No, there is no pain with the treatment, and it is considered safe when administered by a trained professional. However, there may be negative side effects for some people, in the form of a heightened awareness about thinking and thought processes. This may cause light-headedness or peculiar dreams.

What Happens During a Session?

There are eight phases involved in the procedure. First, the therapist determines which memory to target first. Then, they ask the client to hold aspects of the event in their mind, such as auditory, visual, emotional or other cues. During the recollection, they follow the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth the field of vision. Below, we look at each phase in more depth.

Phase 1
The first phase is where the individual’s history is discussed, and the individual is assessed for compatibility with the therapy. This may be done at an organization like Supporting Wellness. Developing certain skills will also occur during this phase, as they will play a pivotal role in the future.

Phase 2
The description provided by emdr.com for phase 2 says, “During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress.” This will be important for resiliency and stress management in future sessions.

Phase 3-6
The next three phases involve selecting the target through the identification of three key items, namely:

  1. The vivid visual image related to the memory
  2. A negative belief about self
  3. Related emotions and body sensations

According to emdr.com, “the client identifies a positive belief” as well, which is used to rate the intensity of both positive and negative beliefs.

Phase 7
The second-last phase is where the client seeks closure and perhaps journals about their experience after the treatment.

Phase 8
Reexamining the past is done in the following session, as well as markers of progress in processing the memory.


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