EMDR provided by:
Taylor Contreras, M.S.
Licensed Professional Counselor Intern
Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor
Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR)
Video on EMDR:
What Is EMDR?
EMDR is a therapy
technique that facilitates healing from symptoms resulting from disturbing
experiences. It is based on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model:
The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health,
unless the system is “blocked”. EMDR helps remove the blocks by reprocessing information
in a more adaptive manner. The process involves utilizing bilateral stimulation
to assist in the desensitization and reprocessing phases of therapy.
How Does EMDR Work?
EMDR addresses the physiological storage of
memory and how it informs experience through change. Change is understood as a
byproduct of reprocessing due to the alternation of memory storage and the
linkage to adaptive memory networks.
One moment becomes “frozen in time,”
and remembering a trauma may feel as bad as going through it the first time
because the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Such memories
have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person sees the
world and the way they relate to other people. EMDR seems to have a direct
effect on the way that the brain processes information. Normal information
processing is resumed, so following a successful EMDR session, a person no
longer relives the images, sounds, and feelings when the event is brought to
mind. You still remember what happened, but it is less upsetting. Many types of
therapy have similar goals. However, EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs
naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. Therefore, EMDR
can be thought of as a physiologically based therapy that helps a person see
disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
What Is The EMDR Session Like?
During EMDR, the therapist works with
the client to identify a specific problem as the focus of the treatment
session. The client calls to mind the disturbing issue or event, what was seen,
felt, heard, thought, etc., and what thoughts and beliefs are currently held
about that event. The therapist facilitates the directional movement of the
eyes or other dual attention stimulation of the brain, while the client focuses
on the disturbing material, and the client just notices whatever comes to mind
without making any effort to control direction or content. Each person will
process information uniquely, based on personal experiences and values. Sets of
eye movements are continued until the memory becomes less disturbing and is
associated with positive thoughts and beliefs about one’s self; for example, “I
did the best I could.” During EMDR, the client may experience intense emotions,
but by the end of the session, most people report a great reduction in the
level of disturbance.
How Long Does EMDR Take?
One or more sessions are required for
the therapist to understand the nature of the problem and to decide whether
EMDR is an appropriate treatment. The therapist will also discuss EMDR more
fully and provide an opportunity to answer questions about the method. Once
therapist and client have agreed that EMDR is appropriate for a specific
problem, the actual EMDR therapy may begin. A typical EMDR session lasts from
60 to 90 minutes. The type of problem, life circumstances, and the amount of
previous trauma will determine how many treatment sessions are necessary. EMDR
may be used within a standard “talking” therapy, as an adjunctive therapy with
a separate therapist, or as a treatment all by itself.
Does EMDR Really Work?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have
investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that
EMDR effectively decreases/eliminates the symptoms of post-traumatic stress for
the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other associated
symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American
Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress
Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress.
EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department
of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National
Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental
agencies. Research has also shown that EMDR can be an efficient and rapid
treatment. For further references, a bibliography of research may be found
through EMDR International Association's web site, www.emdria.org.
What Kind Of Problems Can EMDR Treat?
Scientific research has established
EMDR as effective for post-traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have
reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions: *
personality disorders * eating disorders * panic attacks * performance anxiety
* complicated grief * stress reduction
*All information provided is compiled
from the EMDR International Association website*.