What Is EMDR Therapy and Who Can Benefit from it

Life can be hard at times. Even the most thick-skinned person can be hurt occasionally. Because we live in an imperfect world, multitudes struggle to process the things that have happened to them. Painful experiences can be anything from childhood trauma to major bereavement.

When people consider receiving extra help with their issues, they may quickly become overwhelmed by the number of options available. There are therapists and psychologists, and people promoting hypnosis, CBT or tapping. One comparatively recent therapy is EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing). What is it, and is it worth considering? Let’s discuss this now.

EMDR Therapy

This treatment is used today by some psychotherapists on children, young people and adults. According to the experts at https://www.coaching-online.org/emdr-therapy-near-me/ it was originally developed by Francine Shapiro PhD in 1987. She used it to treat sufferers of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Patients are asked to rhythmically look left and right (following the therapist’s fingers) whilst recalling traumatic thoughts. As the sessions progress it is said that peoples’ emotional symptoms are reduced and the memory becomes less vivid.

It would appear that if people recall specific memories whilst being ‘distracted’ the negative emotions can be reduced. It may be similar to the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that occurs whilst a person is processing information. 

The Process

Practitioners initially discuss the person’s history and devise a treatment plan. They seek to build relationships and to help the patient understand self management. A specific painful memory will be targeted, and an image  selected that sums it up. Similarly to CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), a positive thought is chosen to be its replacement in future.

As the sessions progress the therapist works on helping the patient to process the memory and resolve the issue. This includes such things as desensitisation (being able to think about the memory without the negative emotions) and the adoption of the new thought. Patients assess how their bodies are feeling during the process, to check the negative feelings are subsiding. When the planned sessions have been completed, the practitioner will then review the results.

The Sessions

In many cases there will be a couple of sessions a week for six weeks. Therapy times can be up to 90 minutes in total. The treatment plan will vary from patient to patient, however. This is because one adult may have a single traumatic memory, whilst another may have experienced several that  need addressing.

The design of the sessions is to identify the person’s repressed memories and to help them be incorporated into their standard memories. When they are fully processed the issues should be resolved.

Opinions On The Treatment

It is intriguing that the sessions do not major on getting the patient to talk, and that no medication is used. Whilst hypnosis begins with the patient becoming relaxed, EMDR Therapy asks the person to focus on their troubling memory. A hypnotised person will have their eyes shut, whilst this therapy involves the eyes being open and moving.

Even the professionals who use this method do not fully understand why it works. Having said that, this is no reason to discontinue it as a result. Two major respected bodies endorse EMDR Therapy, however. They are the WHO (World Health Organisation) and the APA (American Psychiatric Association). In the United Kingdom the therapy is used widely by the National Health Service (NHS) and the Ministry Of Defense (MOD).

There have been studies made on this treatment, although it’s been on small numbers of people. They have revealed largely positive results, with no adverse side effects. People who have received counselling for years have been able to quickly overcome their difficulties this way. In many cases the improvements were lasting, and there were less instances of relapse.

Issues That Can Be Addressed

People have received help with the following:

Anxiety and depression

Low self-image

Skin ailments that are symptomatic of stress

Panic attacks and symptoms of psychosis

Chronic or phantom pain (eg where there have been amputations)

Addiction

Phobias

PTSD (eg for ex-military, rape or assault victims or those involved in car accidents)

ADHD

Eating disorders

Studies have shown particular success in the area of PTSD, and that’s the main area where its popularity has grown.

As we can see, this is a fascinating area that can produce real solutions for people’s issues. How it works may be largely a mystery, but big organisations have endorsed it. In some cases a therapist may recommend the treatment is made alongside others.