Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an efficacious form of therapy that is rapidly gaining evidence-based research to treat a range of mental health challenges. These illnesses include but are not limited to: trauma-related disorders to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), self-harm, depression, anxiety, and substance use. EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in the late 1980s.
How Does EMDR Therapy Help?
EMDR targets dysfunctional thought processes or material a person has stored in their body related to past trauma event(s) or situation(s) in their lives. Thought processes such as, ‘I am a bad person’ or ‘I should have done better’ are examples of dysfunctional thought processes. Dysfunctional material may include: guilt or shame around something you could not influence, humiliation from a certain event, or body tension from a stressful experience, i.e. a car accident. EMDR has the ability to target these challenges by allowing one’s body and nervous system to integrate and resolve blocked channels to restore equilibrium in one’s body.
The Eight Phases of EMDR
- The first phase is history taking which assists clinicians to learn about a person’s attachment pattern; early childhood trauma and stressors; gather pertinent assessment data such as cultural, socioeconomic status, and a person’s innate ability to manage distress.
- Phase two is all about developing a person’s ability to self-regulate their nervous system when it becomes hyper- or hypo-aroused to maintain an dual awareness (See the next paragraph for more on dual awarenss).
- Phases three through six is where treatment targets are identified, prioritized, and desensitized (reprocessed) as the person engages in various Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) clinician led exercises.
- After treatment targets have been desensitized, phase seven can begin where a person keeps of journal or list of stressors that arise for future targeting in between sessions.
- Phase eight is the termination part of EMDR where the client and therapist discuss the progress made throughout therapy, what current variables increase the person’s stress, and how to manage future stressors in their life.
The skill of dual awareness relates to a person’s ability to tap in to past memories and stay in the present moment. This allows for the person EMDR therapy notice past trauma details while staying present in the therapy session. Dual awareness protects a person from becoming emotionally flooded or overwhelmed while engaged in EMDR desensitization (reprocessing). Some people develop this skill easily while others may have some challenges with it. EMDR therapy is a process not a race.
What is an EMDR Therapy Intensive?
EMDR therapy has been empirically shown to reduce trauma, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD)symptoms. There are eight phases within the EMDR protocol. These phases are usually delivered in multiple 50-to-90-minute individual sessions.
EMDR Intensives combine the first three phases of EMDR into a 90-minute session, phases four through six (targeting and reprocessing) are delivered in a four-hour session, and then there is a follow up 90-minute session to conclude the intensive.
An EMDR Intensive can be a great fit for those who have experienced various forms of trauma and are eager to jump start their healing process. Due to the timeframes associated with the intensive months of work will be covered within one intensive.
How Can an EMDR Therapy Intensive Help Me?
An EMDR Intensive is the standard EMDR therapy protocol combined into three long sessions. The dose of EMDR treatment in these sessions may help to resolve different forms of trauma to include:
- Unexpected loss of a loved one
- Sexual abuse or rape
- Combat trauma
- Near death experience
- Witnessing someone die unexpectedly
This form of EMDR therapy may assist you with rapidly decreasing symptoms associated with traumatic event. Below is a short list of symptoms EMDR therapy can target:
- Guilt and shame
- Survivors guilt
- Greif and loss
- Negative thoughts about yourself
- Anger and irritability
- Numbness to life
- Out of control emotions
Who Can Benefit From an EMDR Therapy Intensive?
This form of EMDR therapy can be delivered and tailored to most people’s schedules. You may be a good fit for EMDR intensives if you are:
- A busy adult
- Need a rapid reduction in trauma symptoms
- Are eager to start the healing process
- Have time to recuperate after EMDR sessions
Do EMDR Intensives Work?
Although nothing can be guaranteed. EMDR intensives do not deviate from the standard EMDR therapy protocol. The intensives simply condense the timeframe in which the psychotherapy is delivers. Thus, the research on EMDR therapy still applies. Some factors that may impact EMDR intensive outcomes are:
- The level of avoidance, escape, and control (LINK to avoidance, escape, and control blog) one has related to symptoms
- Severity and duration of traumatic situations
- Their willingness and curiosity of how EMDR can benefit them
- Their commitment to the recovery process
What Happens if The EMDR Intensive Doesn’t Work?
Great question. We cannot guarantee results other that what the research shows. If the intensive has had a positive impact. A person can schedule another EMDR intensive to continue the healing process or decrease to weekly sessions. It is entirely up to the person and their wants and desired outcomes.