There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to therapy, just like there is no one ideal type of therapy. Some people like to be able to talk about their trauma or upsetting events from A to Z. Other people would prefer not to.
Everyone will experience something emotionally upsetting at some point in their lives. Usually, our information processing system in the brain can resolve this event without needing any assistance. The person heals from the experience and feels assured knowing that this now lies in the past.
Sometimes, our brains are blocked from following the healing process naturally. The person is left feeling an immense sense of ongoing danger, or feels highly anxious, or is left with a heightened sensitivity to triggers, even after the event has long passed. EMDR is a specialized technique that can help restore a sense of safety and calmness.
The goal of EMDR is not to forget the memory, but to make it less overwhelming and hurtful when thinking about it. It’s one method to let the past be in the past without it interfering with the present.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a neurological application of therapy that uses bilateral stimulation to allow the brain to process information in its own time. It was originally developed to help relieve feelings of distress associated with traumatic memories. Since the 1980’s, research and studies have developed EMDR protocols for other mental health struggles.
EMDR operates from the standpoint that our brain’s information processing system naturally gravitate towards a healing process to allow it to move towards mental health. If this information processing system is blocked, for example by a disturbing event, the brain tries to resolve this naturally in the form of flashbacks, nightmares, worrying thoughts, or intense emotional distress. Using EMDR, we can dissolve this blockage to allow healing to take its natural course.
What Is Bilateral Stimulation?
Bilateral stimulation is the rhythmic left-right-left movement either in tactile, visual, or auditory form. For example watching your therapist’s hand move from left to right, or listening to tones presents to your left ear and then your right ear, or holding two little buzzers that lightly buzz in your left hand and then in your right hand.
Bilateral stimulation produces four main effects:
- A calming and peaceful effect that shows a decrease in physiological arousal
- Increased attentional flexibility allowing the person to move forward from being stuck
- Distancing effect, meaning that a different mindset is developed around the upsetting memory
- A decreased level of worry and anxiety
Is EMDR The Same As Hypnosis?
EMDR is not the same as hypnosis. In an EMDR session, the client is fully awake and alert to the process. They are able to stop the session at any point and communicate with the therapist. EMDR does not cover up painful memories, nor can it help to install positive memories. This type of therapy helps the mind to heal from old wounds at a faster pace than traditional talk therapy.
Who Can Benefit From EMDR?
EMDR can help people who are struggling with a range of mental health issues, such as
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Trauma and PTSD
Does EMDR Really Work?
Research done on the effectiveness of EMDR shows that this type of therapy can help heal the wounds from trauma fast than regular talk therapies. Here are some of the research findings summed up from the EMDR institute
- 84-90% of single trauma survivors no longer experience the symptoms associated with PTSD after three 90-min EMDR sessions
- 77% of combat veterans no longer showed signs associated with a PTSD diagnosis after receiving six 50-min EMDR sessions
- 83% of people diagnosed with a phobia for going to the dentist were making regular dentist visits after receiving three EMDR session
How Many Sessions Will I Need?
This is a difficult question to answer as it depends on different factors. The severity of the disturbing memory and the current coping skills of the person to name a few.
Some people only need a couple of sessions to see a small change in their mindset and thinking pattern. Other people need more sessions to witness a dramatic shift in how they can handle certain situations.