What is EMDR therapy?
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is a research-validated approach used to treat a range of symptoms. It was developed in the U.S. in the 1980's by Dr. Francine Shapiro and is now used throughout the world as a powerful psychotherapeutic technique. In her research, Dr. Shapiro studied the impact of rapid eye movements on the reduction or intensity of disturbing thoughts. Through the contributions of researchers and therapists across the globe, EMDR therapy has evolved over the last 30 years and is now a set of standardized protocols that incorporate many different treatment approaches. Please visit www.emdr.com for more extensive information, including research outcomes.
What kinds of issues can be treated with EMDR therapy?
Originally developed to help victims of trauma, EMDR therapy is now used to treat the following conditions:
- panic attacks
- complicated grief
- addictive disorders
- dissociative disorders
- disturbing memories
- eating disorders
- performance anxiety
- sexual/physical abuse
- pain disorders
- personality disorders
- body dysmorphic disorders
HOW DOES EMDR THERAPY WORK?
When a person experiences a disturbing event, the brain is often unable to process information as it would during a non-stressful event. When this happens, the moment becomes "frozen" within the mind and body and the recall of the event may feel just as disturbing as the event itself. This re-experiencing may take the form of images, sensory experiences and feelings that continue to be present even if the event has long since passed. These memories that are "frozen in time" can have lasting negative effects, impacting one's sense of self, view of the world, and relationships with others.
While no one knows exactly how EMDR therapy works neurobiologically, it seems to have a direct impact on the information processing system within the brain. With the use of dual attention stimulation (often in the form of eye movements), a person's normal information processing system is resumed, similar to what occurs naturally in the brain during REM sleep. After a successful EMDR therapy session, a person often is able to bring a disturbing event to mind but is no longer "re-living" it with the same intensity.
WHAT DOES AN EMDR THERAPY SESSION LOOK LIKE?
Sessions vary depending on presenting issue, but I first work with each client to identify a specific problem that will be the focus of our work and discuss if EMDR therapy is an appropriate treatment approach for their specific problem. Once this has been determined, we develop a treatment plan based on this identified issue. This beginning phase can take several sessions and includes interventions to help strengthen one's internal resources. Once this preparatory work is completed, the EMDR therapist usually asks the client to bring to mind the disturbing event from the past that is connected to the identified problem. This recall involves not only the memory of the event, but thoughts and beliefs that are currently held about the event. The client is asked to hold this memory and these beliefs as the therapist facilitates dual attention. This often involves directional movement of the eyes, but can also include hand vibrations, tapping or auditory sounds. The client is encouraged to notice whatever comes to mind during dual attention processing . Eye movement sets continue until the memory becomes less disturbing.
EMDR therapy is a powerful psychotherapy approach. The client may experience intense emotions during a session, but most people report a reduction in the intensity of the memory at the end of a session.
EMDR therapy sessions usually last 60-90 minutes and treatment length depends on the type of problem, life history and trauma experience of each client.. EMDR is also used within a standard "talking" therapy, as an adjunctive treatment therapy with a separate therapist. To view an EMDR session, visit the EMDR Institute and click on "client session" from the menu at the top of the page.
DOES EMDR ACTUALLY WORK?
Studies have consistently shown that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment modality for a wide range of issues. The American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies has designated EMDR as an effective treatment model for PTSD. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cites EMDRtherapy as evidence- based practice for the treatment of PTSD, anxiety and depression. For more information on this research, please visit EMDRIA (EMDR International Association).
JENNIFER WILSON, MSW, LICSW
1409 Willow Street #400
Minneapolis, MN 55403
1409 Willow Street #400
Minneapolis, MN 55403