EMDR is an evidence-based form of therapy that used eye movements and/or bilateral stimulation as a means to process trauma and distressing beliefs. Although EMDR is most commonly associated with trauma and PTSD, it has also been proven effective to work with other things such as anxiety, phobias, grief, and addictions. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
“This therapy is based on the theory that traumatic events aren’t properly processed in the brain when they happen. This is why they continue to affect us — with nightmares, flashbacks, and feelings of the trauma happening again — long after the actual trauma is over.” writes Hope Gillette for PsychCentral
The Client is Equipped with Coping Skills
In an EMDR session, the therapist will start by making sure the client is equipped with effective coping and grounding tools. This can take the form of visualization or breathing exercises and the intent is to ensure that the client is able to deescalate themselves from a heightened state if need be during the session. It is important that the client feels safe and secure in the therapy setting when processing painful memories or anxiety-producing beliefs.
The Client Discuss History of the Issue
Next, the therapist will review the client’s history. The therapist will ask a series of questions to pinpoint how an experience shaped the client’s view of themselves or the world and people around them. Then they will ask the client about other times when they held that belief, as well as times in the future they anticipated that similar feelings would come up. The client will also be asked about how they would like to feel instead and times when they were able to adapt, overcome and persevere through adversity. This is called a targeting sequence plan and it serves as a guide for the bilateral processing.
The Use of Light Bar or Hand Movements
The eye movement portion of EMDR can either be done with a light bar or with hand movements, and the client is to follow the back and forth movement with just their eyes as they think about their traumatic memory. The eye movements are reminiscent of the rapid eye movements that occur during REM sleep when the mind is processing the events of the day. By replicating it in a controlled setting and with a specific experience, the client is more effectively able to process things.
“Integrating new insights and beliefs through bilateral stimulation creates a trait change that helps clients form more adaptive viewpoints and appropriate responses to difficult triggers,“ explains Lindsy Phillips, a writer for Counseling Today.
The eye movements can be paired with tappers or headphones that buzz or beep in accordance with the lights. Each set lasts about 10-15 seconds, and the client is asked to notice the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that come up in their mind and body during the intervals. Throughout the process, the client is encouraged to let their mind go where it needs to in order to heal. Like any therapy, EMDR is a process and results will not necessarily be instantaneous, but it has been proven to be one of the quickest and most effective ways of helping people overcome their pasts and negative beliefs. For more information about EMDR, click the links below.
- How Does EMDR Work? Can It Help Me?
- The Secrets of EMDR Therapy and How It Can Help You
- What is EMDR Therapy?
If you’re interested in learning more about how EMDR Therapy can help you call 850.757.1552 and schedule an appointment with one of our therapists today or head over to our website, New Heights Counseling, and get to know Our Team.
Learn more about Hillary Marshall
Hillary is a PRE-LICENSED Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern and passionate about helping others and has experience working with adults, children, and couples. She is Level 2 trauma trained in EMDR. Approaching each client with compassion and empathy, Hillary is dedicated to her clients’ care and services Fort Walton Beach, Niceville, and surrounding communities. Book an appointment with Hillary HERE!