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EMDR Explained

Here I explain the techniques around EMDR and how this works



EMDR is typically delivered one to two times a week for a total of six to 12 sessions by trained professionals who are qualified to deliver EMDR.  


EMDR involves eight phases of treatment that focus on the past, the present, and the future. Each phase helps you work through emotional distress and trauma, then learn skills to cope with current and future stress.  


Phase 1: 


The first phase involves getting your complete history. This could include discussing painful memories, events, or experiences from your past, as well as your current stresses. Based on your history, you and your therapist will develop a treatment plan that targets specific memories or incidents.  


Phase 2: 



During this phase, your therapist will help you learn some ways to deal with stress and anxiety, such as doing mental exercises.  

Phase 3: Assessment   

First, your therapist will have you select one of the targeted memories you selected in phase one. You'll identify several components of the targeted memory:  

  • A vivid mental image related to the memory  

  • A negative belief about yourself  

  • Related emotions and body sensations  


You'll also be asked to identify a positive belief about yourself related to the mental picture of the memory and rate this belief according to how true it is.  


Phase 4: 



While you focused on the targeted memory, your therapist will lead you through stimulation sets. These sets may include eye movements, tactile taps, or auditory tones.  

After each stimulation set, your therapist will instruct you to clear your mind and discuss any insights, thoughts, memories, feelings, or images that came to mind. If you're still experiencing negative sensations, they will become the focus of the next set. This process continues until the target memory no longer distresses you.  

EMDR is designed to break any associations you have between certain memories and negative symptoms.  


Phase 5: 



The fifth phase of EMDR strengthens the positive belief you identified in phase three. If you want to change your positive belief to something else, this is the time to do so.  

When you aren't experiencing distress related to the target memory any longer, your therapist will ask you to focus on your positive belief. While thinking of the target memory and positive belief, your therapist will take you through more stimulation sets.  


Phase 6: 

Body Scan   


After you have strengthened your positive belief, your therapist will ask you to note if you have any sort of physical response while thinking of the target memory and the positive belief. The purpose of this is to identify any residual distress.  

If you're still experiencing tension, your therapist will take you through more stimulation sets until it's resolved.  


Phase 7: 



Closure is used to end every session. During this phase, you and your therapist will discuss the positive steps you've made and how to keep them going on a daily basis.  

Your therapist may assign homework to help maintain progress between sessions. Typical homework assignments include:  

  • Daily journaling that tracks your progress and the relaxation techniques you learn.  

  • You may be encouraged to use imagery that allows you to picture what it would be like to gradually face your fears.  

  • Self-help techniques, such as visualization, where you use your imagination to envision a peaceful environment.  


Phase 8: 



Every new session begins with re-evaluation. You and your therapist will discuss your current psychological state and whether the treatment and self-relaxation techniques are working.  

They will ask if any targeted memories have arisen since the previous session. At this point, you'll also determine if you need to work through other targeted memories you identified in phase one.  

What EMDR Can Help With   

Originally designed to treat PTSD, EMDR is now used to treat a variety of mental health conditions, including:  

  • Addictions  

  • Anxiety  

  • Chronic pain  

  • Depression  

  • Eating disorders  

  • Panic attacks  

  • Panic disorder  

  • Phobias  


EMDR can be used on its own or in conjunction with other psychotherapy techniques (such as CBT) and medications.  


Benefits of EMDR   

The benefits of EMDR extend beyond PTSD and trauma resolution. Some potential benefits of this therapeutic approach include:  

  • Changes negative thinking: EMDR can help you identify, challenge, and even change the negative thoughts cluttering your mind.  

  • Decreases chronic pain: Research shows that bilateral stimulation activates the region of the brain associated with relaxation and comfortable feelings.4  

  • Improves self-esteem: EMDR works by targeting distressing memories and negative thoughts associated with yourself. By identifying them, you learn how to process and heal from them.  

  • Requires minimal talking: In EMDR, you don't have to divulge every detail of your painful experience like you would in talk therapy. This makes EMDR is particularly useful for people who have difficulty talking about their trauma.  

  • Yields fast results: EMDR is classified as a brief-psychotherapy. While everyone's journey is different, 80% to 90% of people report positive results within their first three sessions. 

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