Many kinds of psychotherapies currently exist as valid treatment options for many kinds of mental health disorders. You may have heard of talk therapy before, or even neurofeedback therapy, but not many people know about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
To make it simple, EMDR therapy is a form of exposure therapy that doesn’t force the patient to re-traumatize themselves when recalling specific memories. It uses the concept of bilateral stimulation to allow someone to look back on painful memories so they can observe them in a new light. This is done by having a patient pay attention to a back-and-forth movement while recalling a memory. The patient continues following the movement (usually with their eyes) until the memory shifts in a way that they can experience that memory and learn from it.
EMDR therapy is used mostly to treat trauma and anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and types of severe phobias. It’s not the only thing it can treat, as it can help those struggling with depression pick through memories they have trouble recalling or help someone learn how to process memories healthily. It can be vital for the healing process, and many people that don’t find success in typical talk therapy will most likely find results in EMDR therapy.
What Does EMDR Therapy Look Like?
If you are interested in trying EMDR therapy or your therapist recommends it, you can expect these events to happen.
Firstly, your therapist will go over what trauma is and how you physically and emotionally react to it. If you were already in talk therapy, you may have already discussed these things in depth. To prepare yourself, you may learn some new techniques to cope with these negative feelings and reactions. This is very important to do, as even if EMDR therapy is designed to help you deal with traumatic events, it is still discussing upsetting events related directly to you. You need to be prepared to face them, and your therapist may spend some time getting you ready until you feel confident about yourself.
You will need to decide what ‘target’ to focus on in this therapy. Pick one memory at a time. When ready, your therapist will instruct you to focus on that memory as much as you can. You will be asked to recall thoughts, feelings, and even things such as smells and sounds. At the same time, they will ask you to pay attention to a back-and-forth movement, or even a sound cue in a pair of headphones. You are to focus on both these things at the same time until your distress about the memory begins to lessen.
This can last up to 30 seconds at a time to give you time to fully process the memory before you are given a break. During this time you and your therapist will discuss what you have learned so far and accurately access how you feel about your memory. This will repeat several times over many sessions.
This will continue until you eventually begin to focus on parts of the memories you may have missed. You may even begin to associate a positive feeling with the memory. Common feelings can be feelings of power (for those that escaped an abusive situation), vindication (in learning that a situation was truly not your fault), and peace that the memory can no longer hurt you.
This can take several sessions to accomplish and care is taken to not overwhelm the patient through the process. Eventually, they will come to a point where they can speak openly about their memory without being harmed by it. At this point, your therapist will discuss with you if you require any more treatments, or would like to focus on a different memory.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Treatments can last anywhere between 1 to 3 months, sometimes even longer if needed. Each treatment is tailored to each patient, so it depends on how many memories someone needs to process and how long they need to process them. Depending on the severity of symptoms, a patient may go to several sessions a week or only need a session once a week. Again, it’s all depending on the patient, but the treatment will not take forever and many patients see results soon after beginning.
Why Give It a Try?
Because nobody deserves to live a life where they are hounded by painful memories. For those that have tried other therapies without satisfactory results, this may be the treatment that can help. Remember, that you still have control over your sessions and it’s up to you how you proceed with them. Nobody will force you to do anything that you are not ready for, and you can be assured that your therapist has your comfort and health in mind when giving the treatment. If you or someone you love are struggling with the effects of traumatic memories, give EMDR therapy a try.
For those that struggle with traumatic memories, it may seem like there is nowhere for you to turn for help. You may have tried other therapies before, only to feel worse as fresh and old wounds are constantly re-opened. At Acera Health in Costa Mesa, California, we stay on top of the newest breakthroughs in treatment in the mental health field. We offer several kinds of treatments, some which many might not of heard of before. One such therapy is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, which has brought comfort and relief to many who struggle with the effects of trauma. If you or someone you love is struggling under the weight of traumatic memories, call (949)866-3461 today to learn about out many treatment options. Our staff is compassionate and understanding, and will never judge you for seeking help. Everyone deserves peace, call today.
Melody is a highly skilled proactive clinical administrator, with more than 17 years of experience serving the community in the behavioral health field.
Her clinical management career started in 2011 as a compliance manager and program director. In 2018, she became an executive as chief clinical officer (CCO). She is a seasoned licensed marriage & family therapist.