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EMDR Therapy for Phobias

August 2, 2017 Articles
Common Co-Occurring Disorders

As a way to reprocess and re-categorize past traumatic experiences, EMDR therapy holds great promise for the treatment of phobias. Since EMDR is a relatively underpublicized form of mental health treatment, you may be asking: what is EMDR therapy and can it really help me overcome my most intense, paralyzing fears?

What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a technical form of mental health treatment that works by reprogramming the mind to respond to negative thoughts and feelings in a new and more manageable way.

Under the careful supervision of a counselor trained in EMDR methodology, the patient is asked to remember and describe an incident of past trauma that has negatively affected their lives. Once such an event has been identified, the patient will create a vivid mental image of it while making no attempt to suppress the initial emotional response it provokes.

At this point, EMDR techniques are brought into play. While the difficult memory remains the center of attention, the patient is instructed to focus on some type of outside sensory stimulus. For example, they may be asked to visually follow back-and-forth finger movements made by the therapist, or listen to distinctive tones, or tap their hands in rhythm.

As EMDR sessions unfold, eventually the patient will form a new association between the harmless secondary stimulus and the traumatic memory. When guided by a trained expert, this method of mental reprocessing can be highly effective, since it allows the patient to gradually free their brains and bodies from the hypnotic, terror-inducing power of their traumatic memories.

EMDR and Phobias

EMDR has traditionally been used to combat the symptoms of PTSD and other disorders related directly to trauma. This makes it useful for the treatment of phobias, since these intense and unmanageable fears usually have their roots in previous traumatic occurrences.

During EMDR sessions, phobia victims will talk about their personal histories and reveal the awful events that left them emotionally scarred and unable to cope with certain circumstances. They will also be asked to recall, and relive, instances where their fear reactions were especially overwhelming.

Once such memories have been brought out from the shadows and into the light, EMDR techniques can be used to defuse their potency and squelch their capacity to cause intense, phobia-type responses. In a sense, EMDR is like a carefully controlled form or exposure therapy, with the exposure occurring in the imagination and the problems reprocessed and ultimately resolved in that same safe environment.

What Is EMDR? It’s a Form of Psychotherapy That Really Works

The ability of EMDR therapy to help victims of trauma move beyond its disabling effects is real, not theoretical. The American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association both recognize EMDR as a legitimate healing practice that has been verified as effective through peer-reviewed medical research.

If you suffer from a phobia, EMDR could offer you real hope of recovery. By harnessing the power of your mind to reframe your experiences and drain them of their power to evoke fear, EMDR can restore your emotional freedom and give you a brand new lease on life.

Resources

EMDR International Association: What is EMDR Therapy?

http://www.emdria.org/?page=2

Counselling Directory: Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR)

http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/emdr.html

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