Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing Therapy is an extensive psychotherapy that helps a person process and recover from past experiences/trauma that are affecting a person’s mental health and wellbeing. Trauma is the acknowledgement to an intensely distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness. By using Bilateral Stimulations (side to side eye movements) combined with talk therapy in a specific and structured format.
Francine Shapiro, an American psychologist developed EMDR, a form of psychotherapy for working out the symptoms of traumatic and other disturbing life experiences. EMDR was initially developed in 1987 for the treatment of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
There are eight phases of EMDR therapy and three-pronged protocol. Excluding situations caused by insufficient information/organic deficits, the causes of present dysfunction are physiologically stored memories of past experiences. As memories of past and present are successfully reprocessed, adaptive responses to the future are developed. This unifying, three-pronged protocol requires an orientation to past, present, and future. (Francine Shapiro) The phases of EMDR are:
- History Taking and Treatment Planning
- Preparation and Stabilization
- Target Assessment
- Body Scan
The following is a brief description of the phases of EMDR:
- Phase One of EMDR is the History Taking and Treatment Planning. By looking at a history of the client it assists the therapist to identify the client’s readiness for EMDR and to identify if there are secondary gains that maintain the current problem.
- Phase Two is Preparation and Stabilization, this is when the therapist will explain the process in detail so the client will be relaxed, informed, and confident during the treatment.
- Phase three is Target Assessment, the event to reprocess is identified, along with beliefs, images, feelings, and sensations about the event. There are initial baseline measures that are set by using two different scales – Subjective Units of Subjective Units of Disturbance Scale (SUD 0-10, 0 being neutral) and the Validity of Cognition Scale (VOC 1-7, 7 being completely true).
- Phase Four Desensitization is when the disturbing event is evaluated rationally and the EMDR can help you change the way your brain associates trauma with its trigger.
- Phase Five Installation will begin when the desensitization is complete. The client associates and strengthens a positive belief with the target event until it feels completely true.
- Phase Six is the Body Scan and this is when the client is asked to hold in mind the target event and the positive cognition while scanning the body from head to toe. If there are any lingering disturbance from the body this is reprocessed.
- Phases Seven and Eight ensure safety for the client both at the end of a current session and at the start of the next session. Phase Seven closure is to assist the client to return to a state of calm in the present moment and this is whether the reprocessing is complete or not. The completion of reprocessing an event is when the client feels neutral about the event (SUD=0), the positive cognition feels completely true (VOC=7), the client is completely clear of the disturbance.
- Phase eight is Reevaluation and is how each new session begins after reprocessing. There is discussion with the client and therapist around recently processed memories to make sure that distress is still low, and that the positive cognition is still strong. Future targets and directions for moving forward with treatment are determined.
Children and adults of all ages can be helped by EMDR therapy. EMDR is used by therapist to address many challenges a person may be facing. EMDR therapy can be completed in fewer therapy sessions than other psychotherapies for many clients.
For more information about EMDR and finding a therapist go to About EMDR Therapy.