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Therapy can help a person overcome whatever life is throwing at them. It helps them process their feelings, their pains, and can be guided through life with goals to work towards. Anxiety and depression go hand in hand. It’s common for one that struggles with anxiety to also suffer from depression. Not everyone likes to go the medication route. There are different ways to help, such as complementary and alternative treatments. EMDR, also known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, is one of many of them.
“Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a type of psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories”. (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, para 1). EMDR therapy helps alleviate bad memories from traumatic events or life experiences that leave a person struggling with any form of emotional distress such as Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. EMDR therapy can prove that your mind can and will heal from emotional trauma just as it can heal from physical trauma such as a broken bone or a laceration. EMDR therapy makes the client revisit the stressful event that happened.
EMDR therapy has eight different phases that last 90 minutes. During phase one, the therapist collects history and data from the patient. “The therapist will assess the client and identify possible targets that will be used in the treatment, which will include any stressful memories from the past or current situations that are causing any form of emotional distress. The length of treatment depends on the number of traumas and the age of which the emotional distress started”. (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, para 7).
In the second phase of EMDR, the therapist goes over different ways that he/she can handle emotional distress. The client can use different stress reduction techniques between sessions and in the 90-minute session.
Phases three through six run together. During these phases, “a target is identified and processed using EMDR therapy procedures.” (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, para 8). The procedures involve three different things: a vivid visual, sound, or person related to the memory, a negative belief about them self, and any related emotions and body sensations the client may have experienced or are experiencing. The client will also be asked to express a positive attribute they believe they have and will need to rate the positive and the intensity of the negative belief. (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, para 8). The client is then told to focus on all three things while the therapist engages the EMDR processing through rapid eye movements, taps, or tones. “After each set of stimulation, the clinician instructs the client to let his/her mind go blank and to notice whatever thought, feeling, image, memory, or sensation comes to mind” (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, para 9). Once the client vocalizes that they aren’t experiencing any more stress to the memory that was once causing them to experience stress, they are asked to think about the positive belief that they said during the start of the session. Once they start to think about the positives, they use that during the next distressing memories that they might have during the rest of the session.
Phase seven is to achieve closure that the client needs. The client will be asked to keep a weekly journal for a week that includes anything that may happen that week that relates to the material to help the client remember any self-calming events that were used.
Phase 8 is the last phase of EMDR therapy where the therapist examines how much progress has been made and helps the client understand the memories that caused distress, any current distressing situations and future events that will need to be prepared for.
EMDR therapy is a newer type of psychotherapy that is exceptionally helpful with PTSD. EMDR therapy works in a complex way that may make someone wonder how it actually works. “The different pattern of movements from your left brain and the right brain stimulates your brain helping the memories that are trapped to be released. This can be done by tapping on the client’s knees by alternating the taps between each left and right knee at different paces. There are also vibrating devices the client can hold in both of their hands that buzz between each hand simultaneously”. (Kirchner, 2015) Stress causes our bodies to go into a fight or flight mode and sometimes feelings that arise become trapped in our minds and we never properly cope with what has happened or allow ourselves to process the trauma that we go through. Unprocessed feelings later come back and causes the stress that is experienced is what causes the stress. That stressor that is triggered can even come back so vivid it’s like the person experiencing the trauma is back in that moment experiencing it again. “The trapped feeling is what causes the stress part of the disorder. The actual trapping makes it recur because the body has never gotten rid of the fear or anxious response”. (Kirchner, 2015, para 1). EMDR therapy puts the client through the eight different phases mentioned above which stimulates both sides of the brain. When the brain is being stimulated, the central nervous system turns the stressful memories that are trapped in the brain and makes the memories more bearable or take them away. The client will still be able to remember and recall the stressful events, but they won’t correlate them with bad feelings of anxiety or depression.
You can receive EMDR treatment in a clinical setting from a licensed mental health practitioner. “This interactional, standardized approach has been empirically tested in over 20 randomized controlled studies with trauma patients, and hundreds of published case reports evaluating a considerable range of presenting complaints, including depression, anxiety, phobias, excessive grief, somatic conditions and addiction.” (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, US Basic Training Overview, para 1). The training for a mental health practitioner has to go through a training class that consists of a lecture, demonstrations and supervised practice in a clinical setting to gain a full therapeutic technique and learn patient safety. The goal of basic training for EMDR therapy is to learn how to be sufficient with a wide range of situations that a client may need help overcoming. You can get Training through EMDR institute and it is a two weekend course that has 10 hours of didactic and 10 hours of supervised practice each weekend.”(EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, US Basic Training Overview). To receive a certificate of completion, the requirements are to complete the weekend one and weekend two training sessions, reading a textbook, “EMDR: Basic Principles, protocols and procedures (Shapiro 2001)” (EMDR Institute, Inc., 2018, US Basis Training Overview, para 5).
There are some pros and cons to EMDR therapy; more pro’s than cons though. A client can have re-live a certain past event that can cause intense emotions during the session that can cause more stress or memories. It isn’t completely understood as to how EMDR treatment actually works, which can cause some clients to question if the therapy is right for them. (12 keys rehab, 2016, para 10). EMDR therapy is more likely to take the memories and feelings caused from trauma away than to cause more pain. It can stop the client from reacting to the stressors, the sessions may bring up the trauma but true healing can only happen if you are aware of the trauma and can process it in a healthy way, it offers quick relief and it “can treat a wide range of symptoms, many of which are experienced by those battling addiction, including panic attacks, relationship issues, low self-esteem, anxiety, phobia, insomnia, excessive worrying and anger issues.” (12 keys rehab, 2016, para 9).
Long term care residents and even dementia patients would benefit from EMDR treatment as well. I, personally, have taken care of residents who re live traumatic events that have happened in their lives. One specifically was re-living the war he was in. He was very agitated, yelling out, combative and all around inconsolable. As stated by (Amano and Toichi, 2014), a “few studies support it’s use in the older adult (Hyer, 1995;Thomas & Gafner, 1993). Hyer (1995) reported a case of treatment in treating PTSD in older adults with dementia in whom significant improvement was seen after three sessions of EMDR.” (pg. 51) You would think using EMDR therapy in older adults wouldn’t work well considering their cognitive state and other illnesses that may affect the ability of the resident to fully focus on the EMDR treatment, but there are many studies that have been done to show that it helps decrease anxiety and calms the person down when in a stressful situation. Just by the tapping on the knee technique and reminding the resident that it’s going to be okay, the situation is over, or that person is gone will help relax the patient quicker and easier. Without the use of medication to mask the stressful feelings.
- Audrey Kirchner, CMT, (2015) Article: Effective Treatment for PTSD: EMDR Therapy What is EMDR? Ahdi-west, Retrieved from http://www.ahdi-west.org/effective-treatment-for-ptsd-emdr-therapy-what-is-emdr/
- Francine Shapiro, PhD(2018) US Basic Training Overview. EMDR institute, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.emdr.com/us-basic-training-overview/
- Francine Shapiro, PhD (2018). What Is EMDR? EMDR institute, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.emdr.com/what-is-emdr/
- Tamaki Amano, Motomi Toichi, (2014, November 2). Effectiveness of the On-the-Spot-EMDR Method for the Treatment of Behavioral Symptoms in Patients With Severe Dementia. Ingentaconnect. Retrieved from http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/emdr/2014/00000008/00000002/art00001?crawler=true
- 12 Keys Rehab, (2016, May 4) EMDR Therapy: The Pros and Cons. 12 Keys Rehab, Retrieved from https://www.12keysrehab.com/emdr-therapy-pros-and-cons/
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