People with trauma often have difficulties coping in their daily life events, merely because it reminds them of that moment that marked them. An average of 3.6% of adults have dealt with trauma in the past year, and its lifetime prevalence of 6.8% makes it even more troublesome. Left untreated, this condition can lead to physical and psychological impairment, which can prevent a healthy lifestyle.
Treatments such as EMDR therapy have been developed to treat this condition and help trauma victims recover. In this article, you can discover everything there is to know about the EMDR treatment and what makes it so efficient.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a technique used to improve the way you view trauma and PTSD. This includes traumatic incidents such as war memories, abuse, or even car accidents. It involves moving your eyes in a specific way as you are going through your memories.
The theory behind this treatment is that trauma can change how your brain works. By using rapid eye movements, experts believe that you can help your brain reprocess these memories, integrating them correctly into your life.
EMDR Treatment Process
The EMDR therapy process is usually broken down into eight phases, which is why you need to attend multiple sessions. Each session can last anything between 60 and 90 minutes. The phases include:
- Information Gathering
During this stage, the healthcare provider will gather information on the patient’s history. This will help them determine whether EMDR will be useful or not. At this stage, you may need to talk about disturbing or upsetting memories from your past that may have triggered your trauma.
In this phase, your therapist will tell you exactly what will happen during these sessions. They may inform you on the aspects that you need to focus on but also provide tools for better emotion management.
This phase will go deeper into your trauma, as your therapist will help you determine specific memories or themes that you want to reprocess. It will assess how that trauma made you feel (negatives), but also how you want to feel once you are done with therapy (positives).
In the 4th stage, the therapist will begin to reduce your disturbing reactions to a memory. They will try to address both the psychological and physical reactions. This is because, with trauma recalling, patients can feel multiple symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, or upset stomach. The therapist will direct your eye movement as you are focusing on the memory, facilitating desensitization.
In this phase, you have already been desensitized to the memory. The physician will begin installing the positives that you found in the 3rd phase.
- Body Scan
In this case, you will perform a body scan. This is a meditative technique where you’ll scan your body from head to toe, taking note of your current sensations. They will be targeted by your therapist for future processing.
This stage will help you form a bridge between sessions and talk about what you should expect. The therapist will talk about self-control techniques to stabilize your thoughts. They may also ask you to keep a record of potential negative experiences so that you can bring them up during the next session.
During the last stage, the healthcare provider will go over your progress and determine if you have reached your goals. If you still have traumatic effects to target, they can suggest additional sessions.
Is the Treatment Effective?
According to studies, EMDR treatments are very efficient at treating trauma, even more so than cognitive behavioral therapy. They can also be effective against psychotic symptoms such as delusions, hallucinations, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues.
While it isn’t exactly certain why this treatment works, many believe that it’s because recalling the memory can make you feel less emotional about it. Rather than ignoring the trauma, you are facing it head-on, which makes it easier to deal with. EMDR dims the intensity of the memory as it makes you process it.
Studies in 2018 done on refugees with PTSD showed that 61% of the patients no longer showed symptoms after the treatment. Studies done on people with panic disorders also suggest that EMDR can treat the symptoms in 84% of the cases.
The Bottom Line
EMDR therapy has proven to be an effective way to deal with traumatic memories, regardless of their root. When used in association with other treatments, it can efficiently reduce your reaction to trauma triggers.