Trauma Therapy: EMDR

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, commonly known as EMDR, has been accepted by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association and the Veteran’s Administration as an effective and recommended treatment for trauma. It is one of the most well-researched therapies available for helping individuals who have experienced traumatic events. EMDR treatment is used in a variety of therapeutic settings worldwide for the treatment of trauma. Call 844-876-7680 to learn more about EMDR.

What Is EMDR Therapy?

A well-respected form of psychotherapy, EMDR is an information processing technique used to diminish distress caused by exposure to traumatic events. EMDR focuses on retrieving, processing and resolving past experiences that continue to negatively affect an individual’s life. Symptoms such as overwhelming emotion, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, anxiety and the physiological symptoms of fear are reduced or eliminated by this treatment.

EMDR treatment accesses past trauma, the triggers that cause distress in the present, and the thoughts and emotions that cause distress to continue. A specially trained EMDR therapist helps clients understand and gain control over the ways in which past traumatic experiences impact everyday functioning. For those in need of trauma therapy, EMDR is a research-based option that has been shown to provide relief from trauma symptoms.

EMDR Proven Effective as a Trauma Therapy

More than 20 randomized controlled studies have supported the effectiveness of EMDR as a trauma treatment. For example, a 1997 study of sexual assault victims reported a 90% decrease in PTSD after just three 90-minute EMDR sessions. And a 2004 study found that 77% of those with multiple traumas and 100% of those whose trauma sprang from a single source no longer had PTSD after an average of six 50-minute EMDR sessions.

Phases of EMDR Treatment

EMDR treatment occurs in a series of sessions that progress through distinct phases facilitated by the therapist.

  • The process begins with an initial session by the EMDR therapist to gather information about the client’s current issues, the history of related difficulties, their current support system and coping skills, and any other problems that may be affecting their quality of life.
  • Therapist and client identify treatment goals and collaborate to create an individualized treatment plan tailored to the client’s current physiological and psychological reactions to trauma.
  • Experiential techniques are then used over a series of sessions in which the underlying causes of distress are elicited and resolved in a safe, accepting environment.
  • The final phases of EMDR therapy may involve journaling and a review of treatment.

Through the phases of EMDR treatment, clients increase their awareness of triggers, stress responses and beliefs that contribute to their distress and learn new ways to self-soothe and calm themselves when experiencing trauma symptoms.

What Is EMDR Therapy Like?

EMDR practitioners use experiential techniques to engage their clients in dual attention. Clients focus on a negative mental image, belief, feeling or bodily sensation associated with trauma while also attending to some sort of additional stimulus. The additional stimulus is provided by the therapist or the participant is taught to create one. Its purpose is to establish a neutral experience so that the trauma can be experienced with less distress and successfully reprocessed.

A type of bodily sensation is used to create the second attention. This may involve visual tracking of the therapist’s finger movements, listening to an auditory tone, tapping or another type of sensory cue used to attract and hold attention. As this attention to two simultaneous experiences occurs, the therapist guides the participant through experiencing and reprocessing distressful memories, thoughts, feelings and beliefs. This type of experiential process takes place over a series of sessions.

Replacing Beliefs Stemming from Trauma

Trauma symptoms are manifestations of distress. They may be physical, psychological, emotional, mental and behavioral. Underlying trauma-based beliefs about self, others, situations and events cause symptoms to continue even when traumatic events have passed.

EMDR treatment targets these underlying negative beliefs and helps replace them with more appropriate and positive ones. In the case of past trauma, for example, the once-accurate belief that one is in danger could be replaced with the appropriate and positive belief that one is safe. EMDR sessions help clients identify beliefs that support their distress and practice replacing them with healthier beliefs.

Specially Trained EMDR Therapists

EMDR is a structured protocol of interventions used by specially trained EMDR therapists. Clinicians who practice EMDR typically have a background in other psychological and therapeutic techniques as well. Their education, licensing and certifications include a wide range of approaches and disciplines such as psychiatry, psychology, expressive therapies and other related fields. The Ranch treatment center has several therapists trained in EMDR.

Call 844-876-7680 to learn more about EMDR.