Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an advanced psychotherapy technique that therapists use as part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) program. While EMDR is primarily applied to help patients overcome psychologically traumatic events, it also shows promise as a treatment for some psychosomatic disorders and certain personality disorders.
When an individual experiences psychological trauma, their brain struggles to come to terms with the traumatic event. In most cases, this event imprints itself on the brain, and because it cannot be properly integrated, the victim fixates on it and relives it again and again. This can be severely distressing, and in complex cases, it can disrupt the victim’s ability to live a normal and healthy life.
EMDR is believed to act on the brain centers involved with information processing, enabling trauma victims to face, process, and integrate the damaging event or events. The technique is believed to activate the same types of brain activity seen during REM sleep and dreaming, unlocking the innate ability to view events from an alternate point of view.
The prevailing clinical model positions EMDR as an eight-phase therapy program:
- Phase 1—History and treatment planning: The therapist gathers information about the patient and the traumatic episode, and devises a treatment plan.
- Phase 2—Preparation: The therapist introduces the patient to specific techniques that will be used during the therapy program.
- Phase 3—Assessment: The therapist makes evidence-based decisions about which traumatic event(s) to address, and in what order.
- Phase 4—Desensitization: The patient’s responses to the traumatic event are cataloged and gradually diminished through targeted visualizations and eye movements.
- Phase 5—Installation: The patient’s traumatic memories are replaced by new, healthy alternative thought patterns.
- Phase 6—Body scan: The patient is tested to see if he or she can to recall the traumatic event without adverse physiological reactions.
- Phase 7—Closure: The therapist guides the patient through a final resolution and reintegration stage.
- Phase 8—Reevaluation: The patient is tested to ensure he or she is experiencing lasting symptom relief.
Scientific research supports the effectiveness of EMDR therapies. The American Psychiatric Association officially endorses the technique, and three recent randomized studies found that between 84 and 100 percent of PTSD clients afflicted with a single psychological trauma were relieved of symptoms after an average of three sessions. Within a matter of weeks, these clients were able to achieve levels of progress that typically require months or even years of treatment using other techniques.
The therapy teams at our partner facilities have extensive experience with EMDR treatments, deploying the latest scientific practices supported by current literature to boost the rate of recovery after psychological trauma. While the path to healing takes time and effort, EMDR provides clients in recovery with a highly effective and proven approach that can help them achieve inner peace and harmony sooner than they may have expected. To learn more about our addiction recovery practices and options, please contact us at 1-800-210-8229.