EMDR

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At Guardian Recovery, we utilize a range of evidence-based therapies, including Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR for short. Francine Shapiro initially created this therapy in the late ‘80s to help those struggling with unresolved trauma. By using guided eye movements, EMDR has become a go-to for tackling anxiety, depression, and phobias. EMDR has garnered the title of evidence-based therapy. It’s not just a passing trend; research shows it’s a legitimate way to heal significant mental health issues. 

Research shows EMDR’s effectiveness, with studies showing significant symptom improvements for 84-90% of people treated. Additionally, the World Health Organization and the American Psychological Association endorse EMDR as a recommended treatment for trauma. 

If you want to explore mental health treatments, Guardian Recovery is here to help. Our team of professionals is ready to create a personalized plan just for you. Taking that first step is as simple as reaching out. Contact us today and begin your journey toward mental health recovery.

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

Eye Movement Desensitization & Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a cutting-edge approach designed to alleviate the impact of distressing memories and traumatic experiences. Francine Shapiro developed EMDR in the late 1980s. It involves using guided eye movements to stimulate the brain’s information-processing mechanisms. 

Extensive research supports its efficacy in treating various mental health conditions beyond its initial focus on trauma. Studies indicate that EMDR can significantly reduce symptoms associated with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression. Notably, a comprehensive meta-analysis found that EMDR was as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy, indicating its validity as a therapeutic modality.

The therapeutic process of EMDR consists of distinct phases, including history-taking, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, and body scan. During the desensitization phase, clients engage in bilateral stimulation, commonly through guided eye movements, which facilitates reprocessing traumatic memories. This unique method helps individuals process and integrate distressing experiences, reducing emotional reactivity and improving overall well-being. As EMDR continues to gain recognition for its versatility in addressing various mental health challenges, its evidence-based nature positions it as a valuable tool for individuals seeking therapy. 

What Is EMDR Therapy?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is an innovative and evidence-based approach to alleviate the impact of distressing memories and traumatic experiences. To aid in the reprocessing of traumatic memories, Francine Shapiro developed EMDR, an eight-phase structured process that includes bilateral stimulation, usually in the form of guided eye movements. The therapy is not limited to trauma; it has proven effective in addressing conditions like anxiety, depression, and phobias. 

Research supports EMDR’s effectiveness, with studies indicating significant symptom reduction in various mental health conditions. Bilateral stimulation during the special desensitization phase helps clients process painful memories in an adaptive way, which lowers their emotional reactivity. Because of its adaptability and evidence-based design, EMDR is a valuable therapeutic tool that provides people with a structured and efficient way to address a variety of mental health issues.

How EMDR Works

EMDR unfolds through a structured, eight-phase process aimed at reprocessing distressing memories and traumatic experiences. The desensitization phase plays a pivotal role in the adaptive processing of traumatic memories, where it is believed that traumas become stuck in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center. Through bilateral stimulation, EMDR facilitates the transfer of these memories to the hippocampus, the brain’s memory and learning center, effectively reducing emotional intensity.

This unique mechanism allows individuals to retain the knowledge of the traumatic experience without the distressing emotional charge. As bilateral stimulation progresses, the emotional weight associated with the memory is gradually diminished. The adaptive processing within the hippocampus enables a shift from a state of distress to a more balanced and integrated emotional response. Through this nuanced process, EMDR empowers individuals to acknowledge their experiences and foster a sense of emotional resilience and well-being.

The Phases of EMDR

There are 8 phases of EMDR that a clinician will complete with a client to heal and reprocess each target identified. Completing all eight phases can take anywhere from one to several sessions. Here are the following phases of EMDR: 

  • History Taking – The EMDR process begins with a thorough assessment of the client’s history and identifying target issues for treatment. A personalized treatment plan is then developed based on individual needs.
  • Preparation – Clients are prepared for EMDR by establishing a therapeutic alliance, discussing the EMDR process, and ensuring they have healthy coping mechanisms to manage emotional distress during and between sessions.
  • Assessment – The therapist identifies specific target memories or events for reprocessing. Clients are asked to vividly recall associated images, negative beliefs, and related emotions, forming the foundation for the subsequent desensitization phase.
  • Desensitization –  This is a key phase involving bilateral stimulation, typically guided eye movements, to facilitate reprocessing traumatic memories. The goal is to reduce emotional distress and promote the adaptive integration of the memory.
  • Installation – Positive beliefs are introduced and strengthened during this phase, replacing negative cognitions associated with the target memory. The aim is to enhance a more positive and adaptive self-perception.
  • Body Scan – Clients are guided to notice and alleviate any residual physical tension or discomfort related to the target memory, promoting relaxation and closure.
  • Closure – Sessions conclude with a focus on emotional stability, ensuring clients leave feeling grounded and secure. Homework assignments may be provided to reinforce positive processing between sessions.
  • Reevaluation – The therapist reviews progress periodically, addressing any remaining issues and ensuring comprehensive processing of targeted memories. This phase ensures the lasting effectiveness of EMDR therapy.

Applications in Mental Health Disorder Treatment

EMDR therapy has demonstrated significant efficacy in treating various mental health disorders. This innovative approach, originally developed for trauma, has expanded its applications to address conditions such as anxiety, depression, phobias, and more. The eight phases of the structured EMDR process involve bilateral stimulation, which helps people adaptively process traumatic memories, reducing the intensity of their emotions and improving their overall well-being. 

Its success in treating conditions beyond trauma shows the versatility of EMDR for mental health treatment. For those looking for focused, evidence-based interventions for a range of mental health issues, EMDR is a compelling choice because research and clinical evidence both support its efficacy.

Conditions Treated With EMDR Therapy

EMDR has emerged as a versatile and effective treatment for various mental health conditions. Originally designed to address trauma, EMDR has demonstrated success in treating a broad range of psychological disorders. 

Some of the conditions effectively treated with EMDR include: 

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – EMDR is widely recognized as a frontline treatment for PTSD, helping individuals process and integrate traumatic memories.
  • Anxiety Disorders – EMDR has shown efficacy in alleviating symptoms of different anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, and specific phobias.
  • Depression – EMDR can be beneficial in treating depression by targeting negative memories and associated beliefs, contributing to a more positive and adaptive mindset.
  • Panic Disorders – EMDR’s systematic approach aids individuals in processing distressing memories related to panic attacks, reducing the frequency and intensity of future episodes.
  • Eating Disorders – EMDR may be integrated into the treatment of eating disorders to address underlying traumas and negative self-beliefs contributing to disordered eating behaviors.
  • Performance Anxiety – Athletes, performers, and individuals facing performance-related stress have found relief through EMDR, enhancing their ability to manage anxiety and improve performance.
  • Grief and Loss – EMDR helps individuals process and adaptively integrate memories associated with grief and loss, fostering a healthier grieving process.
  • Personality Disorders – EMDR may be utilized in the treatment of certain personality disorders, particularly for addressing traumatic experiences contributing to maladaptive patterns of behavior.

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Advantages & Disadvantages of EMDR

EMDR offers several noteworthy advantages. Firstly, it is known for its efficacy, often requiring a shorter duration than traditional talk therapies due to its targeted focus on specific memories. The approach has garnered empirical support, particularly for trauma-related conditions like PTSD. A significant advantage lies in its versatility, demonstrating effectiveness across various mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. EMDR minimizes the need for detailed discussion of traumatic events, making it more tolerable for individuals. Additionally, the therapy promotes client empowerment, encouraging active participation in the healing process.

While EMDR has its merits, certain drawbacks should be considered. One challenge is the resource-intensive nature of the therapy, as it requires specialized training that not all therapists possess. Consequently, finding a qualified EMDR therapist may be challenging in some regions. Furthermore, the therapy is only sometimes effective, with individual responses varying. The process of reprocessing traumatic memories may initially evoke discomfort and emotional distress, though it’s typically temporary. In rare cases, individuals undergoing EMDR may experience intense emotional responses during sessions, necessitating careful monitoring and support from the therapist.

How Does EMDR Treatment Compare to Other Mental Health Therapies?

EMDR treatment diverges from traditional mental health therapies in several key aspects. Notably, EMDR adopts a focused approach, focusing on specific distressing memories and associated negative beliefs. This targeted focus contributes to its reputation for efficiency, often requiring fewer sessions than talk therapies. 

A distinguishing feature of EMDR is bilateral stimulation, which typically involves guided eye movements. Compared to therapies that do not use specific bilateral stimulation techniques, this unique feature aids in the reprocessing of traumatic memories. Additionally, EMDR minimizes the need for detailed verbal reliving of traumatic events. This characteristic can make the therapy more tolerable for individuals than traditional therapies, such as exposure therapy.

How Many Sessions Are Necessary in Treatment?

The number of sessions required for EMDR treatment varies based on individual factors, the nature of the presenting issues, and the client’s progress. EMDR is known for its efficiency compared to other therapies due to its targeted focus on specific memories, which contributes to shorter treatment durations. 

For individuals seeking EMDR to address a specific traumatic event, a relatively limited number of sessions may be sufficient. Some clients report notable improvements within as few as six to twelve sessions. However, more complex issues or multiple traumas may necessitate a more extended course of treatment.

The therapist and client collaborate to establish treatment goals, and progress is regularly assessed. EMDR treatment follows a structured protocol with distinct phases, allowing for a systematic and goal-oriented approach.

FAQs

Here are the frequently asked questions (and answers) of EMDR Therapy. 

Are the Effects of EMDR Long-Lasting?

EMDR therapy is associated with long-lasting effects, particularly when it comes to the treatment of trauma-related conditions. Research suggests that the benefits of EMDR can endure over time, contributing to sustained symptom improvements. However, individual experiences may vary, and the long-term effectiveness of EMDR can depend on factors such as the nature and severity of the issues being addressed and the client’s overall responsiveness to therapy. 

Is EMDR Only for Trauma?

While EMDR was initially developed to address trauma, its applications have expanded over the years. EMDR has shown effectiveness in treating a wide range of mental health conditions beyond trauma, including anxiety, depression, phobias, and more. Its versatility makes it a valuable therapeutic tool for various psychological challenges, not limited solely to trauma-related issues.

Is EMDR Evidence-Based?

Yes, EMDR is recognized as an evidence-based therapy. Numerous studies support the efficacy of EMDR, and it is acknowledged by reputable organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychological Association (APA). The evidence base underscores the legitimacy and effectiveness of EMDR in addressing trauma and other mental health conditions.

Are There Side Effects of EMDR Treatment?

EMDR therapy is generally considered safe, and serious side effects are rare. However, while processing distressing memories, some individuals may temporarily experience heightened emotions, vivid imagery, or physical sensations.  It’s not uncommon for clients to feel fatigued after sessions. These responses are typically part of the therapeutic process and diminish as treatment progresses. It’s important for individuals undergoing EMDR to communicate openly with their therapists about any concerns or reactions they may experience during or between sessions.

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Contact us today if you are ready to begin a new way of life and begin your healing journey. We begin by developing a plan of action, which starts with an initial pre-assessment. This assessment helps determine the appropriate level of care for each case. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation health insurance benefit check.

SELF-ASSESSMENT:

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

  1. https://www.who.int/news/item/06-08-2013-who-releases-guidance-on-mental-health-care-after-trauma
  2. https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing
  3. https://www.emdr.com/research-overview/#:~:text=%5BA%5D%20quantitative%20meta%2Danalysis,subjective%20distress%20in%20PTSD%20patients.
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7839656/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3951033/

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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