Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
This amazing information is from the EMDR Institute, found online at www.emdr.com, and EMDR is an evidence-based treatment widely available to treat PTSD. It is an eight-phase treatment that focuses attention on three distinct time periods: the past, present, and future. Sessions often last between 60-90 minutes.
The eight-phases include:
History-taking: In this phase, the therapist obtains a detailed history of the client’s past memories and current struggles. During this phase, the therapist will try and identify targets for the EMDR processing (these can be distressing memories or incidents).
Client preparation: This is where the client learns techniques for active healing trauma processing. The therapist will go over strategies, suggest relaxation techniques, and other coping strategies that can help their client deal with emotional distress and maintain improvements as the sessions progress.
Assessment: In this phase, the client is asked to picture an image closely related to the target memory and to elicit the negative response and beliefs associated with the memory. The client is also asked to identify a positive belief that they would like to believe instead.
Desensitization: The therapist ask their client to focus on a specific memory, belief, or emotional trigger while simultaneously engaging in bilateral stimulation (BLS). BLS consists of alternating right and left stimulation, whether it’s tapping of the toes or tapping on the shoulders. It can also include audio or visual stimulation with the use of light. This stimulation may include eye movements, taps, or tones.
It is believed that BLS used in EMDR activates both hemispheres of the brain, which is believed to have a soothing effect, dim the intensity of the memory while allowing the client space to process it without an overwhelming psychological response. This continues until that memory is no longer triggering for the client.
Installation: With the help of the therapist, this is where the client starts to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Continuing to review the triggering memory with BLS, the client is asked to assess the emotional response and rate it against the positive belief (brought up during the assessment phase) they would prefer to associate it with.
Body scan: Here, the client is assessed for changes in body sensations when thinking of the negative incident and positive thought. Any remaining tension in the body is targeted by the therapist for additional processing.
Closure: Client’s will be asked to write down any thoughts or emotions that arise during the coming week, and will be reminded of the self-soothing techniques they learned during the session to process any negative thoughts that may surface.
Reevaluation: This phase is to review and/or assess for other targets that cause distressing emotion within the chosen memory.
EMDR is one of the treatments available for PTSD, and there are several great options. Don’t stress out about which treatment to choose. Most cognitive-behavior therapies for PTSD work by exposing clients repeatedly to anxiety-provoking stimuli, either in their imagination (imaginal exposure) or in real life (in vivo exposure). When exposure to either type is sufficiently prolonged, clients’ anxiety dissipates.
If we try one treatment for PTSD and it doesn’t work, we have others more to fall back on. If we try others and they don’t work, we may be dealing with Complex PTSD, treatment-resistant PTSD, or have co-occurring disorders to work through. Do not lose hope, this simply means we have a little more work to do with our treatment professional to come up with a more targeted course of action.
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