The purpose of EMDR treatment is to help liberate the client from the past into a healthy and productive present. EMDR should only be performed by a trained clinician who understands the complexities and who is prepared to handle the reactions that might come up.
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR therapy is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. Please visit EMDRIA for a more detailed explanation. According to EMDRIA, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy “is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches”
In 1987 psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Initially, Dr. Shapiro called her model Eye movement desensitization (EMD). Dr. Shapiro studied the effects scientifically and 1989, she reported success using EMDR to treat survivors of trauma in the journal of traumatic stress.
Through the years, the focus of treatment changed from desensitization to include the multi faceted impact of reprocessing all aspects of negative maladaptive information to adaptive healthy useful resolution.
HOW IT WORKS
EMDR is an 8 phase approach that focuses on integrating the past, present and future experiences. When a disturbing event occurs, it can get locked in the brain with the original picture, sounds, thoughts, feelings and body sensations. This material can combine factual material with fantasy and with images that stand for the actual event or feelings about it. EMDR seems to stimulate the information and allows the brain to process the experience. That may be what is happening in REM or dream sleep – eye movements (tones or tactical) may help to process the unconscious material. It is your own brain that will be doing the healing, you are the one in control.
Your brain processes information every moment of the day. The goal of our brain & nervous system is to process information and move it into a learning process. As the brain goes through new experiences, it uses our past experiences as a template to understand and categorize or file those away. Our brain then processes new information and uses that to adapt to the new situation. Sometimes our experiences are too overwhelming and our brain is unable to process all of that information. That unprocessed, disturbing information is stored in our brains. When presented with situations that are similar, the overwhelm from that unprocessed memory is activated and the brain will experience that memory as if it’s happening again in the present moment. EMDR helps with disconnecting the old experiences and information in our brain from impacting the present moment. At some point the client can say, “I am ok.” or “it’s all over with” or “I am safe now”
The end goal, with EMDR is to help your brain process that overwhelming or distressing information or experiences that are impacting you on a daily basis.
EMDR method of trauma healing is endorsed by the American Psychiatric Association, the World Health Organization, and the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense.
EMDR is listed as an evidence-based approach and included in SAMHSA and the National Registry of Evidence-based programs and practices. EMDR has been validated by many randomized controlled clinical trials, and there are many stories validating its effectiveness.
Our office has two therapists who have been trained in using the EMDR protocol. Both were trained through the EMDR training center. This EMDRIA approved training provided these clinicians with the foundation and skills to integrate EMDR into their counseling practice. Upon completing the training, these clinicians are considered “EMDR trained.” In order to be certified, clinicians have to go through additional training, supervision/consultation, etc.
- Katherine Kruse, LPC
- Adolescents & Adults
- EMDR trained
- Jennie Wilson LPC
- EMDR certified
Please visit the EMDR International Association for studies validating the efficacy of this modality.
Great you tube videos discussing how EMDR works
EMDR can be a useful approach in working with children. It has been our observation that children respond well to EMDR. While it was developed to work with adults who have experienced severe trauma it can be adapted to work effectively with children for a variety of issues. Talking alone, reaches the left side of our brain, while EMDR works with both sides. We have found that EMDR has helped kids in a wide range of presenting problems and can help children handle strong emotional reactions to difficult things that have happened in their lives. EMDR can be especially helpful for kids who have been through other types of treatment and have found that ineffective. We should avoid EMDR in children when a doctor has not ruled out other medical conditions such as diabetes, etc and if a child is currently involved in or will be involved in an active court case.
It’s recommended that parents of EMDR clients seek out their own counseling or support during this process. Many times, tough memories or difficult feelings are stirred up in children, and can be challenging for some parents. Many times it can be helpful when the parent or guardian can collaborate with the therapist in writing a story of their child’s trauma. Children will need their parents or caregivers to provide the emotional support and stability at home to continuing processing outside of the session.
Video for kids:
Ready to begin EMDR?
Frequently Asked Questions
What does EMDR stand for?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
What kind of problems can EMDR treat?
Research indicates that EMDR is effective in treatment traumas, and PTSD. However, many clinicians (and clients) have reported success in also working with:
- Stress reduction
- Pain disorders
- Anxiety (Phobias, Performance anxiety)
- Disturbing memories
- Personality disorders
How is EMDR different from talk therapy
EMDR therapy is much more structured than typical talk therapy. The therapist will follow a protocol by asking you to visualize certain experiences, identify specific beliefs and emotions, and rate those beliefs and emotions on a scale. You will experience something called bilateral stimulation, which could include following the therapist’s fingers as they move back and forth, watching a light move back and forth, or having the therapist tap gently on your knees. You and your therapist will discuss all of this in detail before beginning EMDR.
Why would I want to bring up painful memories?
Many are afraid of confronting their painful memories in fear that it will make things worse for them. We, as professionals have found that when painful memories are avoided, they keep their power, their negative affect in our lives. Flashbacks and nightmares are upsetting and not helpful. In EMDR, the client can confront or face these tough memories in a safe place, not feeling as overwhelmed.
What happens if unexpectedly painful or scary memories come up during EMDR?
One of the first things you will do in EMDR Therapy includes coming up with ways to manage painful memories or emotions that might pop up inside and outside of the therapy session. Some people visualize a personal safe place, imagine using a container to hold their painful emotions, or identify a protective or supportive figure to help them with painful or scary memories and emotions.
How will I know EMDR is working?
In many cases, clients will experience less anxiety, fewer flashbacks or nightmares, better mood, as well as the ability to think about a traumatic event without feeling tension in his or her body. Your therapist will check in with you each session to see how you are feeling.
What can I expect to feel after each session of EMDR?
You might feel much less tension in your body, increased mood, and less anxiety after your EMDR session. Occasionally, painful memories or emotions might pop up between your therapy sessions, but your therapist will work with you closely to help you know what to expect and to develop ways to cope with those feelings.
Is EMDR safe during pregnancy?
It is up to the client and the therapist. We always recommend that our clients check in with their healthcare provider to determine if they are able to handle or tolerate the potential stress of processing. This is extremely important in clients who are in a high risk pregnancy to have that conversation with their physician to discuss the possibility of intense feelings.
Is EMDR similar to hypnosis?
EMDR is different from hypnosis in a few ways. The most important difference being with EMDR the client is fully conscious and aware during the entire process, putting them directly in the driver’s seat of their own therapy.
Will I be in control?
Absolutely, during EMDR, the client is always in control. IT can be hard to predict the feelings or thoughts or memories that might come up during session, however it is up to the client whether they continue with the process or stop in that moment. The client determines what is verbally said.
Will the therapist touch my eyes?
No. The therapist will not touch their client’s eyes, nor will the client touch their own eyes. This is a concern that many new clients have, they feel like the therapist will touch their eyes or somehow mess with their vision or eye sight. They fear it might be difficult for them to see clearly afterwards.