Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, VA/DOD Clinical Practice Guidelines, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the World Health Organization (2013) as an effective treatment for trauma. Research studies has shown 84-100% of individuals who had experienced one trauma and 77% individuals who had experienced multiple traumas no longer were diagnosed with PTSD after EMDR. Millions of individuals have been treated successfully with EMDR.
EMDR incorporates aspects of psychodynamic, experiential, behavioral, cognitive, body-based, and systems therapies with the integrated Adaptive Information Processing model. It is hypothesized that the basis for clinical psychopathology is dysfunctionally stored memories (Shapiro, 2001). EMDR assist people in healing from emotional distress and physiological symptoms that is experienced after disturbing life events. EMDR involves exploring the past, present, and future. The past is focused upon identify disturbing memories and distressing events. Current situations in which distress is experienced are identified and then assisted in developing healthy skills and cognitions for future events. The length of treatment depends upon the number of disturbing events the client has experienced. EMDR sessions last from 60 to 90 minutes.
EMDR therapy can be used to treat:
- Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
- Chronic illness and medical issues
- Depression and bipolar disorders
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders
- Grief and loss
- Performance anxiety
- Personality disorders
- PTSD and other trauma and stress-related issues
- Sexual assault
- Violence and abuse
- Sleep disturbance
- Substance abuse and addition
EMDR is completed in eight phases. The purpose of the eight phases is to help release the client from the past into a healthy present and future.
Phase 1: Initially the clinician will explore the client’s history, identify suitability for EMDR, and develop a treatment plan.
Phase 2: Preparation phase. During this time, the clinician introduces the client to EMDR procedures, explains EMDR theory, establishes expectations about treatment effects, and develop and implement relaxation and safety procedures.
In phases 3-6, targets are identified and processed using EMDR procedures.
Phase 3: Assessment phase. The clinician identified the elements of the target(s) and establish a baseline before processing.
Phase 4: Desensitization phase. The focus is on the client’s negative affect identified to the targets. During the desensitization phase the clinician implements bilateral stimulation with the client until the negative affect is reduced.
Phase 5: Installation phase. The clinician focuses on increasing the strength of the positive cognition that replaced the negative cognition (e.g., “I am unlovable” to “I am loved”).
Phase 6: Body scan phase. Concentration is on processing any residual physical sensation associated with the target.
Phase 7: Closure phase. The clinician ensures the clients stability at the end of the session. Relaxation or self-control techniques are completed, if needed. The clinician discusses the client’s expectations for between sessions.
Phase 8: Reevaluation phase. The clinician has the client reassess the previously processed target and evaluated the client’s responses. The clinician also explores what the client has experienced since the last session.