Did you know post traumatic stress disorder can be treated successfully with Eye Movement Desensitizing and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)? According to EMDR Institute Inc., some of the studies conducted on EMDR prove that 84 percent to 90 percent of single-trauma victims no longer have post-traumatic stress disorder after only three 90-minute sessions.
Now, you may have heard of this phenomenon, or you may be thinking, “What the heck is EMDR?”
What is EMDR?
EMDR is a form of therapy that combines talk therapy, deep breathing, and bilateral stimulation of the brain’s left and right meridian. The overlying basis of EMDR is to reprocess the brain by desensitizing and separating a traumatic event from the emotions associated with it.
This form of therapy utilizes eye movement, a state similar to rapid eye movement. The therapists will waive an object back and forth in which the client is required to follow with both eyes, thus distracting the client and making it easier for them to share their traumatic event. As the client is able to successfully communicate the traumatic event and realize that they are safe, it desensitizes negative emotions away from the event.
“After the clinician has determined which memory to target first, he asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, for reasons believed by a Harvard researcher to be connected with the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and the clients begin to process the memory and disturbing feelings.”
EMDR Institute Inc.
For example, this therapy could eliminate negative emotions a young adult feels towards hospitals after experiencing their sibling die in a hospital. Once the person disassociates the fearful emotions from the experience, they’ll be able to tell themselves, “Not everyone who goes to a hospital dies.” The talk therapy and deep breathing combined with bilateral stimulation aid heavily in the client’s own intellectual and emotional self-realization to successfully treat PTSD.
What to Expect in an EMDR Therapy Session?
If it’s your very first therapy session, you’ll have a few minutes to get to know your therapist, and feel free to ask them questions about their own experiences with EMDR.
Relaxation and breathing exercises are taught ahead of the first therapy session and help clients focus while sharing difficult memories and trauma.
A client should be prepared to discuss their childhood as EMDR sessions begin by briefly learning about the history of the client’s life and upbringing.
At the beginning of each therapy session, one can expect a therapist to ask, “What memory would you like to work on today?” Or they may ask a client about any negative beliefs they have and traumatic events.
Once the client becomes acquainted with the therapist and understands the post-traumatic stress the client is experiencing, the desensitization process begins.
The desensitization process begins with being asked to think of the traumatic event while practicing the breathing techniques learned at the beginning of the session.
As the client is thinking about the traumatic event and breathing deeply, they will also be asked to follow the object or the light with their eyes and express how they feel about the traumatic event.
The entire EMDR therapy experience helps clients reprocess thoughts and desensitize emotions, successfully treating over 80 percent of participants suffering from PTSD.