Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing is a form of psychotherapy that combines cognitive therapy with a technique that mimics REM (rapid-eye-movement), which naturally occurs during dreaming.
EMDR is often used to treat post-traumatic reactions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, anger, and guilt. However, it can also help to strengthen personal qualities like self-esteem and confidence.
The treatment consists of eight phases:
The therapist will talk to you first about the trauma, behaviors resulting from the trauma, and your symptoms. With this information, the therapist develops a treatment plan.
The therapist explains EMDR and teaches relaxation methods.
Afterwards, the therapist helps identify and assess the disturbing emotions and negative self-beliefs associated with the trauma. Examples of common emotions and beliefs include, “I am helpless” and “I am in danger”. The person chooses statements they would rather believe, such as “I am in control” or “I am safe”.
Then, the therapist guides the person in identifying the physical sensations (tight shoulder muscles, nausea, e.g.) associated with the negative emotions and asks the person to rate the disturbance on a scale of 0 (no disturbance) to 10 (worst ever).
Phases 4 and 5:
The goal of both these phases is to desensitize a person to the disturbing emotions and negative self-beliefs and replace them (a process known as “installation”) with the positive statements selected during Phase 3.
The therapist guides the person through early childhood or teenage trauma in recalling the disturbing memory and then mentally “scanning” his or her body for resulting physical sensations.
Commonly, the therapist will suggest repeating phases 3-6 once, or several times, as the person's reactions to the memory evolve.
This phase occurs at the end of a session. The therapist ensures that person is feeling better than at the beginning of the session.
If additional sessions will be required, then the therapist will guide a person through calming exercises, describe what to expect between sessions, and recommend journaling and other soothing techniques to deal with upsetting memories.
Phase 8 opens each new session (when multiple sessions are necessary). The therapist confirms that positive results from the previous session have been maintained, and determines new areas to target
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