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What is EMDR?


EMDR, short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is a well-structured therapeutic approach. It encourages patients to briefly confront traumatic memories while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation, typically through eye movements. This process is associated with a notable reduction in the vividness and emotional intensity linked to those traumatic memories.

Extensive research has underscored the effectiveness of EMDR therapy in helping individuals recover from trauma and alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Ongoing studies continue to affirm its positive clinical outcomes, demonstrating EMDR's utility in treating a range of disorders such as anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), chronic pain, addictions, and various distressing life experiences (Maxfield, 2019). Notably, EMDR therapy has even demonstrated superior results in trauma treatment when compared to medications like Prozac, as documented by Van der Kolk et al. in 2007.

In a testament to its global impact, Shapiro and Forrest (2016) reported that, since 2016, over 7 million people worldwide have successfully received treatment through EMDR therapy, facilitated by a network of more than 110,000 therapists in 130 countries.

What is EMDR therapy like?

In EMDR therapy, after the therapist and client agree on its suitability, the initial sessions involve identifying the client's issues and enhancing their distress management skills.

In the subsequent phases, the client focuses on a specific event, addressing negative images, beliefs, emotions, and bodily sensations associated with it. They also work on establishing a positive belief indicating resolution.

During this process, the therapist initiates side-to-side eye movements, sounds, or taps while the client observes their thoughts and experiences. The client can pause the therapist's actions at any point if necessary. These sets of stimuli are repeated until the distress associated with the event diminishes.

EMDR therapy can be integrated into regular talk therapy, used alongside a different therapist, or employed as a standalone treatment.

EMDR sessions typically last 60-90 minutes, and it may take one or multiple sessions to process a single traumatic experience. The goal is to comprehensively address the traumatic experiences causing distress and incorporate new, healthier ones into the client's mental framework. This process includes three aspects: past memories, current disturbances, and future actions.

In EMDR therapy, "processing" doesn't mean merely discussing a traumatic event. Instead, it creates a learning state where problematic experiences are digested and appropriately stored in the brain. Useful elements are retained with appropriate emotions, while negative emotions, beliefs, and sensations are discarded. The aim is to equip clients with the emotions, insights, and perspectives that lead to positive behaviors and interactions, helping them move forward in a healthy way. It's important to note that the speed of progress varies from person to person, as each client has unique needs and experiences.

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