Although Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) has become more prevalent in psychotherapy today, many people want to know how does EMDR work for trauma? Through this therapy, individuals are able to reprocess traumatic information safely until it no longer disrupts their lives.
How Does EMDR Work for Trauma – What Happens in EMDR Therapy?
The treatment consists of eight phases and typically lasts for an hour or longer. While some of the effectiveness is now known, theories around EMDR state that the bilateral stimulation aspect of the therapy bypass the area of the brain where memories have been “stuck” due to the trauma, allowing the brain to process and store those traumatic memories. The end result is a peaceful resolution with increased insight about the event itself and negative thoughts about oneself that have come from the traumatic event itself.
Does EMDR Work?
The simple answer is that it is a fairly effective therapy. Some studies done using EMDR show that a majority of single-trauma victims no longer have
PTSD after going through three 90 minute sessions. A different study found that both single-trauma and multiple trauma victims experienced a 100% and 77% success rate after six sessions. Overall, the studies done by multiple studies show strong and promising results.
In some cases, EMDR is paired with other types of therapy. For people who are experiencing PTSD, trauma, and other problems, the therapist may recommend multiple modes of treatment. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Rational Emotional Behavioral Therapy may be paired to increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
Who Uses EMDR?
Both the American Psychiatric Association and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies endorse this type of therapy. It’s been commonly used by the US Department of Veterans Affairs as there is a high incidence of PTSD among current and former military members. However, military members are not the only ones for whom EMDR is appropriate. This therapy has been studied for its effectiveness with good documentation for sexual abuse, trauma, neglect, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse to name a few.
Since EMDR consists of eight phases, a licensed therapist will guide a person through the treatment. Each one has a specific method. For example, in
the Rapid Eye Movement phase, the individual will focus on a disruptive memory and identify a belief that they hold about themselves. The person then identifies what belief they would like to have instead, a positive one. After identifying all of the sensations and emotions that occur with this memory, the individual will review it while focusing on an external stimulus that creates a bilateral movement. After this exercise, the individual is asked how they feel and this process repeats until the memory is no longer disturbing. During sessions, individuals are processing trauma with positive beliefs replacing the negative ones.
For anyone who has trauma or disorders that may be treated by EMDR, seek out a licensed therapist to determine if it’s appropriate. When people want to know how does EMDR work for trauma, it effectively retrains the brain and “unblocks” thought patterns to allow safe processing of trauma. With over 30 gold standard studies showing its effectiveness, it’s been used by many people all over the world. For more information about how EMDR can help you, our professionals here at Serene Self can help you.