The aim of EMDR work seeks to resolve any maladaptive thoughts, beliefs and symptoms associated with traumatic memories and events.
Eye movement desensitization reprocessing
Francine Shapiro (1989a, 1989b) created EMDR therapy as a psychotherapy treatment, which initially was designed to relieve the distress associated with traumatic memories.
Adaptive information processing model
EMDR treatment facilitates the accessing and reprocessing of adverse life experiences and traumatic memories to bring a traumatic memory or event into an adaptive resolution.
All this gets done under the adaptive information processing model framework (AIP), which is a model that describes how memories get processed and stored in the brain.
The AIP process may be adaptive, as is the case with typical memories, or maladaptive, as with traumatic memories.
After an EMDR session, it is common for people to feel relief from their distress as any physiological arousal gets decreased and negative emotions and beliefs get reformulated.
What is EMDR?
Broadly, EMDR therapy is a type of psychotherapy treatment that permits people to heal from the symptoms of emotional and (mental) distress that arise from disturbing life experiences.
In the field of mental health, it often gets assumed that healing and recovery can take a long time, particularly when people present as being profoundly impacted by a traumatic memory, disturbing event or a series of traumatic events.
EMDR therapy proves that the mind can recover and heal from emotional and psychological trauma, similarly to how the body recovers from a physical injury.
Movement Desensitization and reprocessing process (EMDR)
If someone cuts their knee from a fall – their body will accommodate the injury by closing the wound. If the damage is continuously agitated or re-traumatized by further injury, the pain and discomfort worsen.
Once the block gets removed, healing occurs.
EMDR therapy illustrates the parallels of healing between mind and body since it demonstrates that a similar process of events occurs with mental processes.
Experts in EMDR explain that the brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. If the system gets blocked by the impact of an emotionally disturbing event, the emotional wound lingers and may cause intense suffering.
Like a physical injury, once the emotional block gets removed, healing resumes.
Positive outcomes for EMDR sessions
EMDR therapy has become a widely recognized and popular therapy for treating trauma, and the results speak for themselves.
Who does EMDR treat?
EMDR therapy focuses on the reprocessing of disturbing events and can be particularly beneficial to people who have been the victim of:
- Disturbing events from the past such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse
- War veterans
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Domestic violence
- Physical injury
- Natural disaster
Statistics show the powerful impact of EMDR therapy with over 30 controlled outcome studies conducted on EMDR patients.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress)
The majority of the studies showed that 84 – 90% of single event trauma victims no longer demonstrated symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after receiving only three – ninety-minute EMDR sessions.
Other studies conducted by the HMO Kaiser Permanente illustrated 100% of single-event trauma victims and 77% of multiple trauma victims were no longer diagnosed with PTSD after receiving six, fifty-minute sessions of EMDR.
PTSD war veterans
How EMDR works
Research into the field of movement desensitization and reprocessing states that EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment.
Rapid eye movement
During an EMDR therapy session, eye movements (bilateral stimulation) get used as part of a session.
Bilateral stimulation and body sensations
Once the patient and clinician decide which memory to address first, the therapist will ask the person to hold different elements of an event or thought in mind and use their eyes to track the clinician’s hand movements as they glide back and forth across the client’s vision field.
Harvard researchers believe that the concentrated eye movements of EMDR get connected to biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, internal associations arise and through this, the client begins to process the memory and disturbing feelings.
During successful EMDR sessions, the client’s meaning of painful events gets transformed on a mental and emotional level.
Abuse victims, for example, will no longer feel a sense of self-disgust, panic or horror about what happened to them; instead, they shift into a state of self-empowerment by upholding the firm belief that: ‘‘I survived and I am powerful.”
The psychological anxiety of traumatic memories and the emotions they induce can often feel intolerable, particularly when a trauma victim has other co-occurring conditions such as anxiety-related disorders.
Exposure to talk therapy
Other mental health treatments like talk therapy are less effective than EMDR therapy when treating trauma.
The insights clients obtain from movement desensitization and reprocessing do not get gained from a therapist’s interpretation.
Instead, they are gained from the clients’ heightened emotional and intellectual processes.
All this suggests that the most effective treatment for psychological trauma is EMDR therapy.
The positive impact that EMDR therapy has on a client’s life is a profound sense of empowerment by the very experiences that once demoralized them.
The wounds that were once open have not only closed, they have metamorphosed.
EMDR treatment for eating disorders
The impact of trauma can result in various mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse and eating disorders. Mostly, these disorders are a person’s way of coping with the trauma from their past.
The effectiveness of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing for eating disorders
Research suggests that EMDR therapy is incredibly beneficial in treating eating disorders since it targets the trauma and helps to remove any imbalances of blocks in their mental processes, all of which have been negatively impacted by traumatic experiences.
As soon as those mental blocks have been removed, healing begins.
EMDR therapy allows a person fewer compulsions to engage in their usual eating disorder beliefs and behaviors, which often disconnects them from themselves and the pain of their trauma.
Once the pain of trauma gets transformed, the person can change their life and reshape their future by adopting new and healthy coping mechanisms so that recovery from their eating disorder gets sustained.
The principles of EMDR therapy also apply to many mental health disorders, all of which makes EMDR a pioneering treatment for the future.
If you or someone you know has been suffering from the debilitating effects of trauma, perhaps it’s time to consider EMDR treatment.