Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is recommended for adults and children exposed to psychological trauma and loss according to the new guidelines issued by WHO in August 2013.
EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma, loss, chronic pain and many other mental health problems.
To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about EMDR therapy provided by EMDR Canada:
1. How does EMDR work?
When a person is upset beyond their normal limits, their brain ceases to be able to process information as it does ordinarily. Because of the “fight, flight or freeze” response, the brain’s chemistry changes and the traumatic moment can become “stuck in time,”. The person may feel as though they are living in the trauma 24 hours a day, and remembering it may feel as bad as going through it the first time: the images, sounds, smells, and feelings haven’t changed. Traumatic memories have a lasting negative effect that interferes with the way a person feels from moment to moment, they way they interpret the world and the way they are able to relate to other people.
EMDR seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes information. Following a successful EMDR session, even the first session, more normal information processing is resumed: a person i s no longer “stuck” in living the images, sounds, and feelings of the traumatic event. They still remember what happened, but they remember it at an appropriate distance and it feels less upsetting. EMDR appears to be similar to what occurs naturally during dreaming or REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. During REM sleep, the brain integrates information into dreams, while the body is put into a deeply relaxed state. EMDR can be thought of as an induced state of natural relaxation and information integration, helping a person see and integrate disturbing material in a new and less distressing way.
2. Does EMDR really work?
Approximately 20 controlled studies have investigated the effects of EMDR. These studies have consistently found that EMDR effectively decreases or eliminates the symptoms of post traumatic stress for the majority of clients. Clients often report improvement in other secondary symptoms such as anxiety. The current treatment guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies designate EMDR as an effective treatment for post traumatic stress. EMDR was also found effective by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense, the United Kingdom Department of Health, the Israeli National Council for Mental Health, and many other international health and governmental agencies (EMDR Canada).
Megan Hughes has witnessed countless numbers of clients experience relief from persistent feelings of trauma, anxiety and fear after utilizing EMDR. She whole-heartedly believes in the technique as being effective for use with people who suffer from PTSD, childhood abuse, phobias, chronic pain, mental illness, and stress.
3. How long does EMDR take?
There are a couple of initial sessions in order for Megan to understand the person’s background and the nature of their difficulties and to assess whether the EMDR may be an appropriate treatment. Megan will also take the time to explain what EMDR is and answer any questions before they begin treatment. Following a mutual agreement that EMDR is fitting, therapy can begin. Typically, a session with EMDR lasts 60 to 90 minutes. The kind of difficulties, life circumstances and the number of previous traumas are factors that will determine the number of EMDR sessions needed. EMDR can be integrated into an ongoing process of regular “talking” therapy or can be used as a treatment in itself.
4. What is an EMDR session actually like?
The process of EMDR is based on a series set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches.
The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health. “Processing” does not mean talking about it.
“Processing” means enhancing a brain state that will allow experiences that are causing problems to be integrated and stored appropriately in the brain. The brain can then make meaning of the event(s) so that is can become a useful experience to be learned from, connected to appropriate emotions and can be accessible for future reference. The inappropriate emotions, beliefs, and body sensations will be discarded. Typically, negative emotions, sensations and behaviors are connected to unresolved earlier life experiences that make problematic interpretations. The goal of EMDR therapy is to leave the person with emotions, understanding, and perspectives that are adaptive to a healthy well-balanced approach to life.
5. What kind of problems can EMDR treat?
Scientific research has established EMDR as effective for post traumatic stress. However, clinicians also have reported success using EMDR in treatment of the following conditions: Pain disorders, Panic attacks, Complicated grief, Dissociative disorders, Phobias, Performance anxiety, Stress, Addictions, Sexual and/or Physical abuse, Body dysmorphic disorders, Personality Disorders.
6. How was EMDR discovered?
In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts, under certain conditions. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically called it Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, and, in 1989, she published a report in the Journal of Traumatic Stress showing the success og EMDR treatment for victims of trauma. Since then, EMDR has developed and evolved internationally by therapists’ and researchers’ contributions and study.