How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
EMDR treatment occurs over eight phases, from initial assessment to final evaluation. During the initial assessment, a therapist experienced in EMDR takes a thorough history. The aim of this phase is for the therapist to understand the patient’s traumatic experiences and any challenging beliefs that could make the therapy less effective. After taking a history, the therapist prepares the client for EMDR by explaining the treatment, going over what will happen during the EMDR session and making sure the patient has the ability to manage their emotions during EMDR therapy.
The assessment phase is when the therapist activates the traumatic memory for the patient. During this phase, the therapist asks the patient to follow an object with their eyes. At the same time, the patient is thinking or talking about a specific aspect of the traumatic memory. EMDR sessions help patients process their traumatic memories, lessening the emotional impact of these memories over time.
In phases four through six of EMDR therapy, the patient continues moving their eyes while focusing on the stressful memory. They track their emotional responses until the memory causes less distress. The patient also works to improve their cognitive responses to distressing memories and may work with the therapist to address any physical symptoms. At the end of each session, the therapist and patient discuss what went well and what needs to be addressed during the next session.
Is EMDR Therapy Right for Everyone?
It’s important to understand that EMDR therapy isn’t right for everyone. EMDR involves triggering a person’s trauma, so it’s not an appropriate treatment for someone who isn’t far enough along in their recovery to engage in self-soothing. If someone participates in EMDR sessions before they’re ready, they won’t be able to reprocess their memories in a healthy way. Once a memory is triggered, the therapist must have enough time to control it. Therefore, eye movement desensitization therapy isn’t a one-and-done form of addiction treatment. Each patient must participate in multiple sessions to ensure it has the intended effect.
It’s also important for people with PTSD and substance abuse to understand that going through the standard EMDR protocol doesn’t eliminate the need for other types of treatment. A patient who participates in EMDR therapy must continue to address their trauma with a skilled therapist and work through the other issues contributing to their substance use. Many people have a history of trauma, but not all of them are ready to use eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy.
Types of Trauma EMDR Could Help With
Traumatic symptoms can develop in response to type one trauma or type two trauma. Type one trauma is defined as a traumatic experience that happens without any warning. Examples include a violent attack, medical trauma, severe injury, mugging or the traumatic death of a loved one. What these events have in common is that they all happen suddenly.
Type two trauma stems from traumatic experiences that occur repeatedly over many months or years. In many cases, these events are caused by a family member or close friend. For example, someone can develop type two trauma after being subjected to physical assault or emotional distress by a spouse. Childhood sexual abuse, sibling abuse, bullying and abandonment are also examples of type two trauma.