What is EMDR Therapy and How Does it Help?

Learn more about EMDR therapy, how it works, and if it may be the right treatment for you or your loved one.

EMDR Therapy Overview

Whether it be physical or psychological, trauma is an experience that can have both short-term and long-lasting and profound effects on an individual’s mental and physical health. If left untreated, these effects may have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Unresolved trauma can lead to a host of problems, including difficulty moving on with one’s life, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and substance abuse.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments available that can help people recover from the effects of trauma. One such treatment is known as EMDR therapy. EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy, is a type of therapy that uses bilateral stimulation to help people process and heal from trauma.1

EMDR therapy techniques

Who Can Benefit From EMDR Therapy?

Research has shown that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can also be helpful for other types of trauma. If you or someone you know is struggling with the aftermath of trauma, EMDR may be a useful treatment option.

What is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is a trauma-focused therapy developed in 1987 by Dr. Francine Shapiro. It is an evidence-based treatment recommended by the American Psychiatric Association and the World Health Organization for treating PTSD. EMDR Therapy is a structured treatment that consists of eight phases. The therapist will work with the client during each phase to help them process their trauma. The therapist will also teach the client self-care skills and stress management techniques to help them cope with any distress that may arise during or after treatment.3

EMDR Therapy Meaning

The acronym “EMDR” comes from the three main components of the therapy:
  • Eye movements: During EMDR therapy, the client will be asked to move their eyes back and forth in a specific pattern while focusing on their trauma. The therapist may also use other forms of bilateral stimulation, such as tapping or sounds, to help the client process their trauma.
  • Desensitization: The goal of EMDR therapy is to help the client reduce their emotional distress and negative beliefs about themselves that may be associated with their trauma.
  • Reprocessing: During reprocessing, the client will work with the therapist to develop new, more positive beliefs about themselves.

How Effective is EMDR Therapy?

A meta-analysis of 11 studies found that EMDR therapy was more effective than other trauma-focused therapies such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).4 Another study found that EMDR therapy was a more effective treatment for psychosis than usual.5 These results suggest that EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. However, it is important to remember that everyone responds differently to treatment and not everyone will benefit from EMDR therapy.

EMDR vs. Exposure Therapy

EMDR therapy and exposure therapy are both effective treatments for PTSD; however, there are some critical differences between the two treatments. Exposure therapy is a type of CBT that involves gradually exposing the client to their trauma in a safe and controlled environment. Exposure therapy aims to help clients habituate to their traumatic memories and reduce their fear of them. EMDR therapy does not involve exposure to trauma. Instead, the focus is on helping clients process their trauma and develop new, more positive beliefs about themselves.

Both EMDR therapy and exposure therapy are effective treatments for PTSD. However, exposure therapy may not be suitable for everyone, and discussing all treatment options with a qualified mental health professional before beginning therapy is essential.

What Is EMDR Therapy Used For?

EMDR therapy is primarily used to treat PTSD. However, it can also treat other mental health conditions, such as:

  • Substance abuse and addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Phobias
  • Chronic Illness
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Dissociative disorder
  • Eating disorders
  • Grief and loss
  • Pain attacks
  • Personality disorders
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sexual assault
  • Sleep disturbance

How Does EMDR Therapy Work?

The eight phases of EMDR therapy are as follows:6

  1. History-taking: The therapist will get a full psychological history and identify targets for treatment.
  2. Preparation: Here, the therapist will walk through how treatment will work and practice the necessary eye movements.
  3. Assessment: This activates the memory being targeted.
  4. Desensitization: The client focuses on the memory and begins the necessary eye movements, reporting any new thoughts that emerge and trying to make the memory less distressing.
  5. Installation: This phase strengthens positive cognition.
  6. Body Scan: During this phase, the clients consider their physical response while thinking about the memory in question.
  7. Closure: Closure is used to end the session and prepare for the next one.
  8. Re-evaluation: Finally, the therapist revisits the memory to see if the client’s mental state has changed or if any other memories popped up as a result of the last session.

EMDR Therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. However, discussing all treatment options with a qualified mental health professional before beginning therapy is essential.

Things to Consider Before Trying EMDR Therapy

While EMDR therapy has been proven to be an effective treatment for PTSD, this treatment plan is not for everyone. Please consider the side effects and dangers associated with EMDR before proceeding with this course of treatment.

Possible Side Effects and Dangers of Using EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy is generally considered safe. However, there are some possible side effects and risks associated with the use of EMDR therapy, such as:
  • Discomfort
  • Distress
  • Flashbacks
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Finding the Right EMDR Therapist

When trying to find an EMDR therapist, make sure to:
  • Check their credentials
  • Ask about their experience with EMDR
  • Make sure they are qualified to treat your specific condition.
EMDR therapy is an effective treatment for PTSD. However, it is essential to find a qualified therapist who is experienced in treating your specific condition.

What to Look for in an EMDR Therapist

When seeking an EMDR therapist, finding someone who is a good fit for you is crucial. Here are some things to look for:
  • Ensure the therapist is trained and certified in EMDR
  • onsider the therapist’s specialty
  • Ask about the therapist’s experience
  • Consider your comfort level with the therapist.
EMDR therapy

EMDR Therapy for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Problems

While primarily focused on treating PTSD, EMDR therapy may be a good option if you struggle with a variety of mental health problems.

What to Expect in Your First EMDR Therapy Session

Your first EMDR therapy session will likely be similar to a traditional one. The therapist will ask about your symptoms, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. They will also ask about your past trauma and any other mental health conditions you may have.

After the initial assessment, the therapist will explain how EMDR therapy works. They will then walk you through the eight phases of EMDR therapy.

Contact a Professional EMDR Therapist at Essence Healthcare

At Essence Healthcare, we understand that everyone’s emotional needs are different. That’s why we offer a variety of therapies to help you heal, grow, and thrive. One of the unique therapies we offer is EMDR.

If you are struggling with painful memories or feelings of anxiety or depression, we encourage you to contact us today to learn more about this powerful therapy. Our skilled and compassionate therapists will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that meets your unique needs. So don’t wait any longer to start living the life you deserve. Contact Essence Healthcare today.

The Bottom Line

EMDR therapy is a type of therapy that is growing in popularity. It is based on the principles of exposure therapy and utilizes eye movements to help people process and work through difficult memories and experiences.

EMDR therapy has effectively treated various mental health conditions, including PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression. Ask your therapist if EMDR therapy is right for you.

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Questions About Treatment?

We are a patient-first substance abuse and mental health treatment facility located in Los Angeles, California. At Essence Healthcare, we provide different levels of care from detoxification to drug rehab aftercare. Our team is standing by to address your questions. Your call is confidential and no obligation is required.