Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a unique form of psychotherapy that is designed to decrease the disturbing feelings associated with traumatic events. EMDR differs from forms of talk therapy because it focuses more on the negative emotions and symptoms instead of the actual event itself. EMDR has helped many people overcome a variety of psychological stress.
EMDR focuses on the understanding that unprocessed memories contain thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and physical sensations that occurred during the event. The treatment centers directly on the memory with the goal of changing the way the memory is stored in the brain. EMDR aims to decrease and eliminate the problematic effects these emotions have on the individual.
During EMDR therapy, individuals briefly focus on the traumatic memory and simultaneously experience bilateral stimulation in an effort to reduce the emotion of the memory. The bilateral stimulation includes eye movements as well as tones and taps.
EMDR therapy has a structured eight-phase approach that includes:
Usually, this phase lasts 1-2 sessions at the beginning of treatment. It can also be used throughout therapy if other issues arise. This is the development stage, where the therapist works with the client to design an individual treatment plan.
The client and therapist will discuss the specific issues and negative behaviors associated with the problem. After that, the therapist will evaluate and set specific targets to use EMDR. What sets EMDR apart is that the individual does not have to share specific details of the event. Instead, they provide a general outline and the therapist works to identify and target the event with EMDR.
During this phase, the therapist explains the treatment methods and introduces the client to the necessary procedures. This includes practicing eye movement and other bilateral components. This typically takes 1-4 sessions, or sometimes more for others with a very traumatized background.
It is important to establish trust between the client and therapist during these sessions. The client will learn what to expect during and after treatment as well as tools and techniques for calming themselves during distress.
The installation phase aims to increase the strength of the positive belief that the person has identified and effectively replace the negative belief. During this fifth stage of treatment, the positive cognition is strengthened and reinforced. The VOC scale is used to measure how deeply the person believes the positive self-statement. The main goal of this stage is for the person to accept the full truth of the positive self-statement at level 7 on the VOC scale.