What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, often referred to as EMDR therapy, is a form of psychotherapy that uses bilateral stimulation techniques, such as tapping and side-to-side eye movements, to help people fully process traumatic memories. EMDR enables people to let go of negative associations with traumatic memories and reduce the symptoms that impact their everyday lives. 

The History Of EMDR Therapy

EMDR was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro, a psychologist who noticed that rapid eye movement  provided relief from her own traumatic memories. Intrigued by this effect, she began incorporating bilateral stimulation into her work with clients to study this phenomenon further. She found that eye movement had a desensitizing effect on negative feelings connected with traumatic memories. Her clients saw significant improvements in their mental health after an average of only five treatment sessions.

Today, EMDR is a popular form of treatment for people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder. The effectiveness of this approach is backed by a robust body of research. In a study of patients undergoing acute mental health crises, EMDR led to positive results for all patients who completed treatment, with the majority of patients needing less than ten sessions. Furthermore, a literature review of 15 studies on EMDR therapy for children with PTSD found that EMDR led to significant reductions in symptoms for all treatment groups. Overall, EMDR therapy can be highly beneficial for people of all ages who experienced past trauma.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

EMDR includes eight phases of treatment to help you fully process and heal from traumatic events . During phase one, the history-taking phase, your therapist will gather details about your past, your current stressors, and what you hope to work on in therapy. In phase two, your therapist will help you work on coping methods for dealing with stressors in a healthy way. This way, you will have skills for staying grounded when you confront traumatic memories. 

Phase three involves assessing your target memory. Your therapist will ask you to think about a mental image related to the memory, as well as any accompanying emotions, body sensations, or negative beliefs about yourself that you developed after this event. You’ll also reflect on a positive belief about yourself, which you’ll shift your focus to in later phases.

In phase four, your therapist will ask you to move your eyes back and forth by following their finger as you focus on the target memory. Afterwards, you’ll talk about any thoughts and feelings that came to mind, as well as any uncomfortable bodily sensations that cropped up. Your therapist can lead you through another round of bilateral stimulation and give you the chance to let go of any lingering negative feelings. 

The fifth phase is known as the installation phase. Your therapist will prompt you to think about your target memory as well as the positive belief you identified earlier. As you continue tracking their finger movements with your eyes, you will keep your focus on strengthening your positive belief.

In the sixth phase, your therapist will lead you through a body scan so that you can process and release any lingering physical tension. You’ll end the session with the seventh phase: closure. You and your therapist will discuss the progress you’ve made, and how you can stay on track between sessions. Phase eight marks the start of a new session, when you’ll reevaluate your state of mind and determine whether you want to reflect on a different target memory.

Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

While EMDR was developed specifically to benefit trauma survivors, this approach to therapy can also be helpful for people struggling with anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, depression, and bipolar disorder. Many people live with mental health conditions that are linked to past trauma, and processing these memories through EMDR can help them heal their other symptoms.

Why We Offer EMDR Therapy

At Affinity Psychological Services, we have found that EMDR is exceptionally helpful for clients  healing from trauma. Many mental health conditions are rooted in past trauma. EMDR can help clients drastically improve their lives without having to relive their most difficult moments. Our therapists generally utilize EMDR when they work with trauma survivors. 

Lots of people seeking counseling for trauma appreciate EMDR because they do not have to share every detail of their past experiences with their therapist. This helps them avoid feeling retraumatized. As a result, EMDR can be highly effective for people who have not seen the results they wanted in talk therapy.

You Can Heal From Trauma

If you’re interested in working with a therapist who incorporates EMDR into their practice, you can get in touch with us on our contact page. If you would like to book an appointment, you can use our scheduling page to set up your first session at one of our offices in Edina, Plymouth, St. Cloud, or Bloomington.

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What is EMDR Therapy and What Does It Help?

About 7 of every 10 adults in the U.S. has experienced a potentially traumatic event — at least once in their lifetime. Trauma is extremely common and can be highly debilitating.