What is EMDR and How Does It Treat PTSD Trauma?

Photo by 905513 on Pixabay

By Rishi Khatri

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an integrative, psychotherapy approach that has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as other types of trauma. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what EMDR is, how does EMDR treat trauma, what are the different phases of EMDR therapy, and more.

What is EMDR?

To begin to understand EMDR, we first need to understand what trauma is. Trauma is a reaction that people have when they have been exposed to an event that is outside of their ability to cope and make sense of. These events can be anything from a car accident, to a sexual assault, to a fire. The human brain has two basic modes for processing information. When an event is new and fresh, we are in an “automatic” or “immediate” processing mode. This mode allows us to process information efficiently and immediately so that we can respond to the event in a way that makes sense.

How Does EMDR Treat Trauma?

During traumatic events, the brain automatically enters “reflective” processing. This means that the brain is now working on a more detailed, slower level. Whereas immediate processing allows us to respond quickly to an event, reflective processing allows us to analyze an event after it has happened in a very detailed way. However, trauma occurs when the brain cannot process an event in a timely, efficient manner. Traumatic events can be so overwhelming that the brain gets “stuck” on the reflective processing level. This means that the brain is still analyzing the event in great detail, but has not yet been able to make sense of it. Because traumatic events happen outside of our ability to process them, they often cause us to feel disconnected from ourselves, our bodies, and the world around us.

EMDR Therapy Process

As we’ve covered, EMDR is an integrative therapy approach that uses eye movement as a mechanism to facilitate processing of the traumatic event. EMDR therapists help clients to process their traumatic event with the intention of finding a healthy resolution. Once the traumatic event has been processed, these clients are then better able to live their life without being held back by the traumatic event. EMDR therapy consists of eight phases: preparation, assessment, treatment planning, treatment phases, termination, follow-up, and documentation. The phases will vary depending on the client and the specific trauma that they are working with.

8-phase EMDR Therapy Process

First phase – Preparation: In this first phase, the therapist and client work together to establish a therapeutic relationship, set goals, and clarify the problem and desired outcome. Next, throughout the second phase, the therapist gathers information to help determine the best treatment approach for the client. The therapist will also begin to build a trusting, working relationship with the client. Next, in the third phase, the therapist will help the client to develop a sense of mastery by identifying strengths, resources, and skills that the client can use to overcome their problem. In the fourth phase, the therapist helps the client to identify the problem and to develop an initial idea of the solution to their problem. Next, the therapist helps the client to create an image that represents the problem, which is known as the “target image.” The fifth phase of the EMDR therapy process is known as “re-processing,” which is when the therapist helps the client to go back to the traumatic event, bringing the target image with them. As the client thinks about the traumatic event, the therapist uses their hand to gently and rhythmically move their client’s eyes back and forth.

EMDR for Adults With PTSD

When using EMDR to treat adults with PTSD, the therapist will usually have the client start with a “general focus” of the traumatic event. For example, if the client has PTSD as a result of being in a car accident, the therapist may start the client out with an image of a car accident. The therapist will help the client to create an image of the car accident, and then the therapist will start to move the client’s eyes back and forth. During this phase, the therapist will guide the client to think about what happened during the car accident. The therapist will then have the client think about how the car accident made them feel in their body. The therapist will then have the client end the “re-processing” phase by having the client imagine a “safe place” or “positive future” in order to resolve the traumatic event.

EMDR for Children With PTSD

When treating children with PTSD, the therapist will start with an image of the traumatic event. For example, the therapist will ask the child what happened when they were in the car accident or what happened during the sexual assault. The therapist will then ask the child to create an image that represents the traumatic event. Once the child has an image of the traumatic event, the therapist will have the child close their eyes and start to move their eyes back and forth. The therapist will then have the child start to think about what happened during the traumatic event, encouraging the child to focus on the feelings in their body. The therapist will then have the child imagine a safe place in their mind where they can feel calm and relaxed. When the child is imagining their safe place, the therapist will stop moving the child’s eyes. Next, the therapist will help the child to end the re-processing phase by having the child think about how the traumatic event made them feel in their body. Finally, the therapist will help the child to finish processing the traumatic event by having the child think about what happened during the traumatic event and how it made them feel. The therapist will then have the child end the re-processing phase by having the child imagine a safe place.

Final Words

EMDR has been shown to be an effective therapy for treating trauma and PTSD. It is important to note that EMDR is a very structured form of therapy, and clients may feel as if they are being rushed. It is important that EMDR clients are given the time they need to process their trauma, and it is the therapist’s job to help guide their client to their own resolution.

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Clear Mind Treatment is a 45-90 day program specialized in treatment resistant depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD using traditional psychotherapy and cutting edge technologies, like Ketamine, TMS, EMDR. We are a big fan of neuroplasticity and meditation and believe that when you can change your thought and feeling patterns, you can change your life. We take most PPO insurance, medicare, and AHCCES in Arizona. Give us a call anytime 310-571-5957 www.clearmindtreatment.com,

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