Trauma can have a crippling effect on individuals, often leading to depression, stress, and other mental health issues. Fortunately, there are a variety of therapies available to help individuals heal and work through their issues. EMDR therapy—or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy—has become increasingly popular for its potential to help individuals overcome traumatic experiences. This article explores EMDR therapy, what to expect during a session, the benefits of it, and tips for working through your trauma.
What is EMDR Therapy and How Can It Help with Trauma?
EMDR therapy is a technique used by therapists that is designed to help people resolving the disturbances caused by past traumatic experiences. It involves a series of guided eye movements which are intended to help reprocess the memory of the experience. During EMDR sessions, the therapist will help the client recall the details of their traumatic experience and explore the accompanying emotions. This process encourages the client to develop new insights and help them dissociate from the intensity of their emotions. As a result, the client will feel less overwhelmed and better able to cope with the trauma they experienced.
It Can Help With PTSD
EMDR is especially effective in treating PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Studies have found that PTSD sufferers can significantly reduce the symptoms after just a few EMDR sessions. In addition, some experts believe EMDR can even help people reach a point of trauma resolution and help them connect to the world around them again.
It is Evidence-Based
EMDR is endorsed by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the American Psychiatric Association, and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends it as evidence-dependent. Several randomized controlled trials have found EMDR to be effective in treating individuals with PTSD and other trauma-related symptoms.
What to Consider When Choosing an EMDR Therapist
Not all therapists are qualified to provide EMDR therapy, so it is important to do your research before deciding on a therapist. Here are a few things to consider when choosing an EMDR therapist:
Look for a therapist who is certified in EMDR by the EMDR International Association. The therapist should be trained in the eight phases of EMDR, including the prerequisite coursework, and they should be qualified to use EMDR.
Be sure to ask your potential therapist how much experience they have in using EMDR. Look for a therapist who has treated people with a wide range of traumatic experiences, and ideally someone who has experience in dealing with a specific issue.
When looking for an EMDR therapist, you should also consider how comfortable you feel with the therapist. Do you feel that the therapist is easy to talk to and understand? Is the therapist willing to answer any questions you have? Make sure that you feel heard and that the therapist is listening to your concerns.
Preparing For Your First EMDR Session
Before you start your EMDR therapy, it is important to be prepared. Here are a few things to do before your first session:
- Gather information about the trauma you experienced
- Think about the feelings, sensations, beliefs, and thoughts associated with the trauma
- Write down your experience in detail and bring it to the session with you
Understand Your Goals
- Be honest about your hopes and expectations for EMDR
- Be clear about your goals for the session and the therapist should provide feedback
- Discuss what you hope to achieve after the session is over
Prepare to be a Good Listener
- Be prepared to listen to your therapist as they explain the various steps of EMDR
- Focus on the therapist’s instructions and try to understand the process
- Be honest and open with your therapist during the session
What to Expect During an EMDR Session
Each EMDR session is different and will focus on the specifics of the individual’s experience. However, here is an idea of what to expect during an EMDR session:
At the start of the session, the therapist will ask questions to determine the person’s history, triggers, coping skills, and other details. This is an opportunity for the therapist to get to know the person and understand their circumstances.
Identifying the Traumatic Memory
The therapist will next focus on the specific traumatic memory that the person experienced. Together, they will identify the most distressing element of the experience, as well as any related emotions, sensations, thoughts, and beliefs.
Exposure to Traumatic Memory
Once the distressing element has been identified, the therapist will guide the person through the process of recalling the memory and developing new associations with the trauma. The eye movement stimulation is designed to reduce levels of distress and help the person shift their outlook.
At the end of the session, the therapist will offer their assessment of the progress made and any tips they may have. The therapist may encourage activities that reinforce the new ideas and may recommend follow-up sessions.
Benefits of EMDR Therapy
EMDR has been found to be effective in treating a range of mental health issues, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and stress. Some of the benefits of EMDR Therapy include:
- Reduced Symptoms of PTSD – EMDR has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of trauma and PTSD, including intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and avoidance.
- Improved Sleep Quality – EMDR helps reduce the distress associated with trauma-related memories, which can improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.
- Reduced Stress and Anxiety – EMDR helps to reduce stress and help people to better manage their emotions. This can help to reduce anxiety and improve overall emotional regulation.
- Enhanced Self-Esteem – EMDR can help individuals think more constructively about their life and experiences. This can help to improve self-esteem and enhance the sense of self-compassion.
Tips for Working Through Trauma with EMDR Therapy
Working through trauma with EMDR is not always easy, so it is important to be prepared. Here are a few tips to get you started:
It can be very helpful to find a support system to lean on during your EMDR process. This could be friends and family, or a support group or therapist. Having people that you can talk to about your experience can be very beneficial.
Take Time for Self-Care
EMDR can be an emotionally challenging process, so self-care is very important. Make sure to take ample breaks throughout the day and don’t forget to do things you enjoy. Additionally, it is important to get enough sleep as fatigue can make it harder to focus on the process.
The healing process takes time and it is important to remember that healing is not a straight line. It can be helpful to keep a journal to track your progress and keep yourself motivated.
EMDR therapy can be a powerful tool for helping individuals overcome traumatic experiences. While it can be an emotional journey, the benefits can be life-changing. If you are considering EMDR therapy, make sure to do your research, find a qualified therapist, and be prepared with what you want to achieve. With patience and commitment, EMDR can be incredibly effective and help you heal.