What is EMDR?

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) was designed to help alleviate symptoms associated with traumatic memories. During EMDR sessions, clients revisit emotionally disturbing material in brief sequential doses while focusing on external stimuli, such as directed lateral eye movements. EMDR is thought to be effective because recalling traumatic events is often less upsetting when attention is diverted. This allows the client to revisit emotionally distressing memories without having a strong psychological response. In turn, they create new associations with these memories, allowing for the development of cognitive insights, which subsequently eliminate emotional distress. EMDR therapy has shown that the mind can indeed heal from psychological trauma, similarly to how the body recovers from physical trauma. 

How does EMDR work?

EMDR therapy is broken down into eight different phases, so treatment takes multiple sessions, depending on the targeted trauma.

Phase 1: History and treatment planning – During phase one of EMDR, your therapist will review your history, and assess your readiness for treatment. 

Phase 2 : Preparation – Your therapist will then help you learn different ways to cope with your emotional distress, including potential stress that may be caused by the EMDR treatment. Stress management techniques may include deep breathing and meditation.

Phase 3: Assessment – Next, your therapist will help you identify specific memories to target, in addition to associated components, such as:

  1. Visual imagery related to the memory
  2. A negative belief about yourself that stems from the memory
  3. Related emotions and bodily sensations

Phases 4-6: Treatment – Next, the actual eye movement desensitization and reprocessing process begins. During these sessions, you will be asked to focus on a specific memory while simultaneously performing specific eye movement. Bilateral stimulation such as taps or other movements may also be mixed in. Afterwards, the clinician will instruct you to let your mind go blank, noting the thoughts and feelings that you are experiencing. Once you identify these to the clinician, you will repeat the process. Over time, the distress associated with particular thoughts, images, or memories should start to fade, and be replaced by positive beliefs. 

Phase 7: Closure – During this phase, your therapist will help return you to a state of equilibrium. They may ask you to keep a log of your thoughts and feelings during the week, and help you overcome any lingering distress.

Phase 8: Evaluation: In phase eight, you will examine the process thus far. You will identify additional memories that you wish to target or, if appropriate, conclude the EMDR therapy.

What are the side effects?

As with any form of psychotherapy, temporary side effects may occur. These include:

  • An increase in distressing memories
  • Heightened emotions or physical sensations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Vivid dreams

Is EMDR effective?

Many indepent studies and controlled studies have shown that EMDR is an effective treatment for PTSD.There is also promising new evidence that EMDR can help treat other mental health issues, as well. A 2012 study of 22 people suffering from PTSD found that EMDR helped eliminate symptoms for 77% of participants. The study also found that treatment did not exacerbate their existing symptoms. A 2015 study of 32 people suffering from depression found that EMDR helped 68% achieve full remission. 

A variety of domestic and international mental health organizations have recommended EMDR as an efficacious treatment for PTSD. These organizations include:

  • American Psychiatric Association (APA)
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

EMDR for Addiction 

Several studies have shown strong anecdotal evidence that EMDR can help with addiction, including sex addiction, love addiction, and porn addiction. EMDR for addiction recovery is a trauma-informed treatment that helps get to the root cause of their addiction, delink the positive feeling state associated with the destruction behavior, and heal attachment wounds. 

This makes EMDR a front-line therapy for recovery and relapse prevention. EMDR may also be an effective treatment for spouses/partners of those suffering from addiction, by healing negative self-beliefs and strengthening relationships.

EMDR Therapy in Austin

Recovery is possible. If you or a loved one are suffering from PTSD and/or addiction, EMDR may be able to help. To learn more and set up an appointment, get in touch with our Austin office today.