EMDR therapy is an integrative treatment approach often used within the context of traditional cognitive behavioral and narrative therapies.
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
It is a comprehensive approach that addresses the physiological storage of memory and how it informs experience.
Two important premises of the approach are based on the concept that the past informs our present, and that the body has tremendous ability to heal itself given the right support and opportunity.
Change is understood as a byproduct of reprocessing due to the alteration of memory storage and the linkage to adaptive memory networks.
Meaning… memories of our experiences run along ‘neural networks’ and are linked together. These memory networks inform how we think about, experience, and approach our day to day stressors. More specifically, how our bodies respond (or more accurately react) to triggers, stressors, and present day life problems.
Dual attention bilateral stimulation or BLS (eye movements, tactile taps, and auditory tones) is one unique component of EMDR therapy. However there are multiple phases of this treatment to help provide a targeted treatment plan, stabilization and coping skills, as well as the actual memory reprocessing.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and panic disorders.
The American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the World Health Organization among many other national and international organizations recognize EMDR therapy as an effective treatment.
Beginning November 2021, I am in the process of becoming trained and should be certified by the Emdria International EMDR Association by April of 2022.
** please note that EMDR should always be utilized with a trained clinician and within the context of a therapeutic relationship.
A couple of intro videos about EMDR…
A slightly longer video by Emdria the International Association of EMDR video can be found HERE.
For those Neuro nerds out there (like me…) Here is a video explaining how laterized eye movements suppress activation of the amygdala consistent with EMDR therapy can be found HERE.
Frequently Asked Question::
WHO IS THIS FOR:
EMDR is a well researched therapy protocol that has been shown to help improve mental health conditions of trauma, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, grief, and personality disorders as well as other challenging life issues and mental health diagnoses. Trauma carries a wide range of definitions in the context of EMDR from distressing experience to traumatic events. If you are finding that you have present day stressors, problems, and reactions that continue to be unresolved and stuck, EMDR may be an option for you.
WHAT AFFECTS CAN EMDR HAVE ON MY BRAIN ?
From the Emdria literature… “Our brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyzes and controls behavior and emotion). While many times traumatic experiences can be managed and resolved spontaneously, they may not be processed without help.
Stress responses are part of our natural fight, flight, or freeze instincts. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the upsetting images, thoughts, and emotions may create an overwhelming feeling of being back in that moment, or of being “frozen in time.” EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories, and allows normal healing to resume. The experience is still remembered, but the fight, flight, or freeze response from the original event is resolved.”
HOW WILL WE DETERMINE IF EMDR IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
The first few phases of EMDR includes assessing if you are in a place in your life that EMDR would be advisable. This will include assessing what resources, skills, and abilities are available for you to take care of yourself while the memory reprocessing phase of the therapy occurs. In addition we will assess if there are any contra-indicated factors that would caution the use of EMDR or need to be resolved before treatment is warranted. These are decisions we will make together based on your expertise in your life and my experience and training as a clinician.
WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO PREPARE FOR THIS TYPE OF TREATMENT?
Through the first few phases of treatment, we work on establishing a plan for treatment focus and working on grounding and resourcing to help stabilize you through the process.
Due to the impact anxiety, trauma and other conditions have on our day to day functioning… this phase of treatment may focus on stabilization for many sessions before we even begin memory reprocessing.
The good news is this form of treatment is done in process with a therapist and grounded in creating a sense of safety, control, and respect for your experience of the work. You are in charge of your treatment and ultimately determine if you are ready for this form of therapeutic work.
HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM TRADITIONAL TALK THERAPY?
While we are engaging in EMDR protocols, the verbal processing is kept at a minimum and the focus is on the bilateral stimulation as the primary form of processing and healing. This process will happen more internally and is a more sensory experience than traditional narrative and CBT approaches.
We can schedule time to verbally process at points in the therapy phases. However, some clients find that they do not need to verbally process certain aspects of their experiences. This makes this form of treatment helpful for those clients who have struggled to engage in traditional verbal processing of traumatic events.
Homework for this form of treatment is kept at a minimum. The initial phases of stabilization will require time out of sessions to practice self care and coping strategies. This is a matter of course for all therapy and is indicated for positive mental health.
Timelines for EMDR vary depending on your goals and extent of memory targets, however when we begin treatment of target memories there is a commitment to weekly sessions as reprocessing can take multiple sessions per target to work through. It is highly advisable that there not be long breaks between sessions.
This form of intervention is always done with a trained clinician and in the context of a therapeutic relationship. It does not replace other traditional treatment interventions that may be helpful for you to reach your goals and is only part of an integrative plan for your treatment. And most importantly… EMDR is offered within the context of a therapeutic relationship.
A longer description of the phases of treatment can be found HERE.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
EMDR has been shown to be a very safe, helpful and effective form of treatment. However due the nature of reprocessing early and difficult emotions, sensations, thoughts, and memories it can be intense in nature. Like all approaches of therapy, things can get worse before they improve. Dealing with difficult emotions and memories are hard. But not dealing with something or avoiding it has risks too.
EMDR therapy can cause a heightened awareness, increased physical sensations, surfacing of upsetting memories, feeling vulnerable, and may effect your dreams. The beginning of therapy may be triggering to people starting to deal with traumatic events, specifically because of the heightened focus. While the therapy will likely be effective in the long run, it may be emotionally stressful to move through the course of treatment. Given this, most clients report progress after sessions and the safety measures that we prepare can minimize the risk of a more serious adverse experience.
It often takes several sessions to treat PTSD with EMDR therapy. This means that it doesn’t work overnight. Like all therapy approaches, there is always the risk that this mode of therapy may not work for you or not get you to your expected or preferred outcome.
You will know within a few sessions if this form of treatment is working for you and you are finding that is assisting you towards your treatment goals and preferred way of living.
It is important that you have control over your treatment and know that this form of treatment is voluntary and requires your consent for every phase.
WHAT IF WE ARE DOING EMDR THROUGH TELEHEALTH?
In the course of our world events over the last few years, it has given us the opportunity to gain experience and insight into the efficacy of EMDR with telehealth. This issue is still being researched and evaluated, but initial results suggest that EMDR remains effective in regards to telehealth services.
That being said it does present issues that are not present for in-person sessions. In order to make sure that these risks are minimized we will formulate a plan for how to set up your physical space, ensure confidentiality on your end, create a safe environment, limit distractions, discuss a safety plan, and target technological issues before we begin any reprocessing phases of the treatment. Due to these risks, I may recommend that you only engage in EMDR during in-person sessions.
I provide all telehealth services through Jituzu, a HIPPA secure client portal. EMDR will only be offered via a computer or larger mobile device. A mobile phone will not be an appropriate device as the the size of the screen and tendency for connectivity issues will be contra-indicated.
I am excited to begin offering EMDR as a treatment protocol for clients. I believe, coupled with the variety of other resources and approaches I already utilize, it will be a powerful component of treatment for clients who opt to utilize it as a part of their treatment plan.
If you have further questions, concerns, or need more information on a particular issue please contact me through you Jituzu messaging system to discuss further.