If you or a loved one suffers from mental or emotional symptoms caused by trauma, then you may benefit from a relatively modern approach to psychotherapy known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). This psychotherapy treatment plan works to help people who have experienced traumas associate positive memories or feelings with the traumatic event, which effectively reboots the internal memory system. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, EMDR was developed in 1989 and has been successfully implemented in millions of cases worldwide over the past 25 years through counselors who are certified or trained in the practice.
Conditions Treated by EMDR
Primarily, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing treats patients who suffer from the after-effects of trauma. This might include people who have been in combat zones, victims of sexual assault or people recovering from emotional abuse. While the treatment is usually implemented in patients with extreme reactions to trauma, EMDR can also be used in cases of depression or anxiety. By reprogramming a person's response to negative stimuli, counselors with EMDR certification ensure that patients associate only positive imagery and emotions with trauma triggers. Some patients only require a few sessions of EMDR due to isolated trauma incidents while others with longer histories of trauma may need more long-term care. Therapists may pursue training in this type of therapy, but the EMDR International Association offers a certification process for clinical practitioners as well.
The Benefits of EMDR
The EMDR Institute, Inc. lists eight treatment phases associated with this type of therapy, and the first of these is information gathering. A counselor certified or trained in EMDR will collect information on the patient's history with trauma and stress so that he can identify how to proceed. Some patients require pre-therapy sessions to establish emotional stability, which is part of phase two. During this phase, patients will need to prove that they have a way of coping effectively with stress so that EMDR has a better chance of long-term success. Once the therapist establishes that a patient can handle the treatment, progression moves to phases three through six.
The next four phases require the patient to focus on the negative memory via a strong visual image while simultaneously associating a positive image or memory with the event. The counselor will then use eye movement to redirect the patient's thought processes to the positive image. Counselors can use a back-and-forth finger method in which patients follow the finger for 20 to 30 seconds, but they can also use other methods involving audio therapy. Phase seven is a journaling phase in which the patient recounts possible triggers and stress relief methods, and phase eight includes reassessment to evaluate whether the EMDR therapy is working.
Researchers aren't sure why EMDR therapy works, but multiple studies show positive benefits and outcomes of practicing this type of psychotherapy. Counselors who obtain certification in EMDR join the ranks of thousands worldwide who offer alternative treatment options to people dealing with the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions related to trauma. As research continues on the beneficial effects of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), no doubt more practices and therapists throughout the United States will start offering this treatment program to the people who most benefit from it.
See also: The Evolution of Psychotherapy