How We Treat
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
EMDR therapy helps individuals recover from distressing life experiences that show up repetitively, as well as trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression and panic disorders.
It is designed to be a short-term treatment that requires fewer sessions than most psychotherapies. Our brain processes traumatic memories via communication between the amygdala (our brain’s integrative center for emotions), the hippocampus (has a major role in memory including safety and danger) and the prefrontal cortex (analyzes and controls emotion and behavior). Often, our brain naturally processes and resolves difficult or traumatic experiences. However, when this does not happen, the memories tied to these experiences stay within us, causing us to get “triggered” when similar events occur.
What is EMDR Therapy?
Attempting to cope with difficult memories by “figuring it out” (a cognitive/thought-based method) usually does not work because what we know and understand does not match what we feel. We cannot reason away the emotional experience or resolve it simply by applying knowledge. It is a change in our actual felt sense that enables us to cope.
EMDR is a method that enables us to naturally heal by connecting present events to associated events in our memory networks and allowing us to tap into the felt sense. This therapy is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories. Eye movements (or other bilateral stimulation) are used for part of the session. As a result of this bilateral stimulation, the client is able to gain insights through their own process (not from the therapist’s interpretation).
What is the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) theory in EMDR?
The AIP is a learning theory that posits that experiences are automatically connected to our
memory networks. Our behaviors, perceptions/opinions, and attitudes are all associated with
these memory networks. Therefore, our past experiences inform or current way of being.
Emotional distress or problems arise when memories or events are associated in ways that are
not helpful, or with memories that have not been fully processed (see Solomon & Shapiro
2008). As a result, we often maintain negative cognitions such as “I am not enough” ; “I am
unsafe” or “I am unlovable”. With EMDR, associations to memories linked to such negative
cognitions can be explored and reprocessed to be maintained in a more adaptive and positive
way such as “I am enough”; “I am safe now”; or “I am lovable”.
EMDR Can Treat the Following:
Some Differences Between EMDR Versus ART
- Incorporates cognitive interweaves. negative cognitions (how one feels about oneself) as a result of traumatic events, and works towards replacing those negative cognitions with positive ones.
- EMDR incorporates Cognitions and Sensations
Client will discuss findings throughout the session with the therapist. Therapist has a more active role in directing determining and guiding the direction of the session.
Therapist provides client with a starting point for each BLS. The BLS helps the client to easily freely associate, enabling the client to discover connections other events in their life.
When a strong reaction occurs, treatment is paused and tools to regulate emotions may be applied.
Basic Training is 44 hours. Advanced trainings follow.
A strong therapeutic alliance with the client, a recognition of common goals and honest communication are all important.
- Works to replace negative images and sensations by replacing them with more positive ones.
ART incorporates Imagery and Sensations
Sessions have very little interaction between the therapist and the client, in fact, the therapist does not necessarily need to know what the specifics are that client is working on. This is extremely beneficial with shame-based traumas.
- Therapist works from a predetermined script, directing the client to specifically focus on certain things during each BLS.
- When a strong reaction occurs, treatment is not paused. Therapist and client work through the difficult reaction as it will dissipate shortly.
- Basic Training is 21 hours. Advanced trainings follow.
ART treatment can be completed in as little as one session.
ART is procedural in nature and therefore does not require a strong therapeutic relationship prior to commencing.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy that was developed to help people heal from trauma. It is based on the idea that when someone is overwhelmed by a traumatic event, their brain fails to adequately process the experience. EMDR works by stimulating the left and right sides of the brain with bilateral stimulation such as side-to-side eye movements or bursts of sound. This helps the person access different aspects of their experience; enabling them to process the trauma and successfully integrate it into their memory. The therapist then guides the client in revisiting and reframing this trauma, allowing them to gain insight and find healthier ways of coping with it.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is believed to work by stimulating the left and right sides of the brain with bilateral stimulation such as side-to-side eye movements or bursts of sound. This type of stimulation helps the person access different aspects of their experience and process their emotions more effectively. EMDR has been found to promote changes in neural pathways in regions including the amygdalae, hippocampus, anterior cingulate cortex, and prefrontal cortex. These changes can help reduce symptoms of trauma, leading to greater resilience, increased emotional regulation and improved overall well-being.
EMDR therapy offers many benefits for individuals dealing with trauma, anxiety, and other related emotional challenges. These benefits include:
- Effectiveness for trauma: A highly effective treatment for PTSD, reducing symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety through the processing of traumatic memories.
- Rapid Results: EMDR often produces significant improvements in a short time compared to traditional therapy methods like talk therapy.
- Emotional Regulation: With EMDR, individuals are better able to regulate their emotions, reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
- Enhanced Self-esteem: Individuals experience a boost in self-esteem and self-confidence due to addressing and resolving past traumas and negative self-beliefs.
- Improved Coping Skills: New coping strategies are learned, as well as ways to manage stress, anxiety, and triggers effectively.
- Long-lasting Effects: The benefits of EMDR therapy tend to be long-lasting, providing lasting relief from trauma-related symptoms.
- Better Quality of Life: EMDR therapy ultimately leads to an improved overall quality of life by reducing the impact of trauma on daily living.
It’s important to note that the benefits of EMDR therapy vary from person to person, and it is crucial to consult with a qualified EMDR therapist to determine if it is the right treatment approach for your specific needs.
Despite being an effective and evidence-supported treatment, EMDR therapy is often surrounded by several misconceptions. Some of these misconceptions include:
- It’s Only for PTSD: While EMDR is highly effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), it can also be beneficial for anxiety disorders, phobias, and emotional distress unrelated to trauma.
- It’s a New Age or Pseudoscientific Therapy: EMDR therapy is an evidence-based therapeutic tool and has been extensively researched. It’s not a new age or pseudoscientific approach, instead, it’s grounded in psychological principles.
- It Only Uses Eye Movements: Eye movements are a common form of bilateral stimulation in EMDR, however other techniques such as tapping or auditory cues can also be used.
- It’s a One-Time Session: EMDR involves completing multiple sessions over time rather than a single session. The number of sessions will vary depending on the individual and their specific needs.
- It’s Only for Severe Trauma: EMDR can be helpful for individuals who’ve experienced a wide range of traumatic events, from severe traumas to more common life stressors. It’s not limited to only extreme cases of trauma.
- It Erases Memories: EMDR doesn’t erase memories; instead, it helps individuals process and reframe them, making these memories less emotionally overwhelming.
An EMDR session can last between 60-90min. The number of EMDR sessions can vary depending on the individual’s needs and overall challenges that the individual may wish to address during each session. It is important to discuss any concerns and challenges with your EMDR therapist to determine the appropriate treatment plan for you.
EMDR therapy is suitable for a large range of age groups due to the flexibility that is adapted to each treatment plan. There aren’t any strict age limitations for EMDR therapy, and therapists who specialize in this specific form of therapy are trained to tailor their techniques and approaches to the developmental stages and unique needs of each client. This means that children, adolescents, and adults can all potentially benefit from EMDR when facing trauma-related issues, anxiety, or distressing memories.