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Can EMDR Help With All Mental Health Conditions?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an unusual but rapidly growing form of therapy. It has a well-justified reputation for effective treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma-related issues. Considering that 70 percent of U.S. adults will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime, EMDR’s stellar record is obviously welcome. However, this unique modality can help people with many other mental health conditions.

In the name of guiding people in need to seek out this powerful, short-term option, let’s take a look at some of the conditions that can be addressed by EMDR and precisely how it does what it does.

Can EMDR Help With All Mental Health Conditions?

Needless to say, it’s dodgy to say any treatment approach can help with all conditions. Plus, of course, every person and situation is different. Even so, we can definitely point to a long list of disorders and symptoms (aside from trauma) for which EMDR has been found to provide positive effects. These include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety, social anxiety, and panic disorders
  • Performance anxiety
  • Excessive worry
  • Low self-esteem and motivation
  • Apathy
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Delusions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Dissociative disorders
  • Disordered eating
  • Chronic pain (including low back pain)
  • Personality disorders
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Addictions
  • Triggers and cravings
  • Complicated grief
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Psychosis
  • Thoughts of self-harm

close up photo of a woman's blue eyesThis introductory list will probably pique your interest. But to better determine if EMDR is right for you, it helps to know more about how it works. While EMDR is technically considered a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it is unlike what most people imagine therapy to look and feel like. As with any approach, it starts with a getting-to-know-you session, but then it takes some unexpected turns.

EMDR Therapy Basics

You and your therapist will discuss possible thoughts or memories to focus on. If the overarching problem is anxiety, your focus might involve an event in which you felt nervous, embarrassed, or extremely worried. You concentrate intently on these thoughts while the EMDR therapist moves their hands and fingers in front of your face. Your task is to follow these movements by rapidly moving your eyes from side to side.

This combination induces a state of mind that stimulates both brain hemispheres. In this state — similar to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep — you can recall distressing experiences without being triggered. Thus, you can better process and resolve the discomfort and replace those sensations with a positive memory, goal, or affirmation.

In relatively few sessions, you will find yourself more easily viewing situations as less daunting or challenging. These sessions encompass eight phases.

The 8 Phases of EMDR

  • Phase 1: As touched on above, treatment begins by taking a history and choosing a focus.
  • Phase 2: Because you will be addressing uncomfortable scenarios, some stress reduction skills are introduced and refined.
  • Phases 3-6: This is where and when the hand and eye movements take place. The client will keep track of what thoughts and bodily sensations are associated with the focus of the sessions.
  • Phase 7: Self-monitoring is a crucial component so, the client will keep a journal to track progress, triggers, etc.
  • Phase 8: As the EMDR treatment moves toward resolution, the client and therapist discuss what has transpired (using the client started in phase 7) and evaluate what else needs to be done.

It’s important to note that EMDR relieves the client from the type of side effects that typically arise from medications. Outside of minimal light-headedness and/or an increase in vivid dreams, the EMDR process will not bring about a side effect burden.

These are the EMDR fundamentals. To learn more, we invite you to contact us for EMDR therapy.

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