Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is actually a form of psychotherapy. It is used to treat a patient’s emotional symptoms in the aftermath of trauma. Developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in the 1980s, EMDR may be a newer discipline, but it has consistently shown positive results in treating a variety of disorders.

EMDR all began when Dr. Shapiro realized that certain eye movements made thinking about traumas from her own life much easier. She began studying the effects of eye movement on patients, quickly realizing that EMDR creates positive changes in patients as early as in the first session.

Before undergoing EMDR, a patient may need to do the following:

  • Give a history and partake in treatment planning: In an initial session, the patient will give a history of traumas and symptoms. The counselor can then work with the patient to determine the best plan of action.
  • Preparation: in the next few sessions, the therapist will teach the patient the tools they need to deal with the emotional aftermath of a trauma.
  • Assessment: Using the Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) scale the counselor will determine the status of the patient’s health as a result of the inciting trauma.

At this point, EMDR sessions can begin. They will include:

  • Desensitization: The counselor walks the patient through certain negative thoughts and teaches the patient the eye movements that ameliorates their reaction to those thoughts.
  • Installation: During this stage, the counselor helps the patient swap in positive thoughts for negative ones.
  • Body Scan: In this stage, the patient again goes through certain negative thoughts and identifies any pain or tension in the body.
  • Closure: Finally, the therapist checks in on the patient’s emotional status and assigns tasks for the next session.
  • Reevaluation: In subsequent sessions, the therapist reassesses a patient’s emotional status and addresses new issues that may have come up.

What can EMDR Treat?

EMDR is very helpful for those experiencing emotional stress in the aftermath of a trauma. Patients with some of the following disorders may benefit from EMDR:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Addiction
  • Eating disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Specific phobias

EMDR treats many disorders, but the disorder it is most often used on is PTSD. A good deal of research has shown that patients can experience full remission of their symptoms when treated with EMDR and that it can be faster and more effective than CBT. Many PTSD patients are better able to tolerate EMDR than other therapies.

EMDR is also considered something of a gold standard when it comes to treating anxiety disorders and agoraphobia. As research continues, this groundbreaking treatment may help patients with an even wider range of disorders, including chronic pain.

The Side Effects of EMDR Therapy

Mental health treatment does sometimes come with some side effects. It is important to keep in mind that a mental health professional will always weigh the risks involved against the benefits they believe the patient will experience in treatment.

EMDR is believed to have fewer side effects than medication. Patients can, however, have emotional strain and discomfort during an EMDR session. After a few sessions, this can abate.

Since EMDR brings up painful memories, it can also trigger sensations that neither the patient or therapist can prepare for. Patients may also experience tension or ache in certain parts of the body.

The closure section of an EMDR session typically serves as a way in which to monitor these side effects. The ultimate goal is always to have a patient better off at the end of a session than when it began. If a patient is unable to tolerate EMDR, your therapist will recommend alternatives.

If you feel EMDR therapy is the right answer for you, contact us today. We can help.