Home » Addiction Recovery Center » What is EMDR Treatment and How is it Used?

What is EMDR Treatment and How is it Used?

When people suffer from one or more major traumatic events, it can be difficult, if not seemingly impossible for them to overcome the incident and move forward with their lives in a positive way.

Often left with stress, anxiety, and sometimes paralyzing fear, they suffer from the all-inclusive diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. This can be a result of rape, bodily assault, military combat, even car accidents or a loved one’s sudden death, just to name a few.

PTSD can be the end result any time someone goes through an experience they perceive as traumatic. It can occur even if they’re just a witness and not directly involved, such as a shooting or a robbery.

In the past, the traditional treatment for PTSD was psychotherapy, specifically Cognitive Behavior Therapy, sometimes supplemented with medications. Then, in the late 80s, EMDR was developed.

What is EMDR?

EMDR is an acronym for the psychotherapy treatment called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s used to help people heal and move beyond the emotional scars resulting from traumatic happenings in their lives.

EMDR has been successfully used to treat a wide range of trauma victims. EMDR therapy has also been applied to a diversity of additional conditions, including panic attacks, personality disorders, performance anxiety, addictions, phobias and other life experiences a person finds too overwhelming to deal with properly.

What Does EMDR Do?

If you get a splinter in your hand, it causes an irritated wound. If the splinter is left in your hand, the wound will continue to fester, causing pain. Once you remove the splinter, the body is able to heal the wound and the pain disappears.

Something similar happens in the brain, as it processes information and attempts to move in the direction of maintaining mental health. If there is a memory of a traumatic experience blocking that process, the emotional wound will fester and cause mental and emotional pain, just like the splinter did in the physical sense.

When the blockage is removed through EMDR therapy, mental and emotional healing can resume. EMDR therapy is successfully used by more than 100,000 medical professionals all over the world, helping millions of patients overcome varying levels of trauma and anxiety.

How Does EMDR Work?

EMDR treatment is divided into eight phases, with each phase having its own specific focus. Eye movements are just one aspect of the overall treatment. A specific memory is chosen to target, and as the patient focuses on that event, he’s asked to track with his eyes the movement of the clinician’s hand back and forth in front of the patient’s face.

Using the same biological mechanisms as those used during REM sleep (rapid eye movement), the brain begins processing the memory of the event, including any disturbing feelings that may surround it.

Patients report intense emotional changes in how they’re able to perceive the traumatic event. Instead of feeling victimized or helpless, they’re able to recognize how the trauma actually made them stronger.

In order to achieve lasting benefits, most professionals recommend a treatment plan that typically includes six to eight sessions. In the hands of a competent, caring medical clinician, patients can successfully use EMDR to overcome the bonds of post-traumatic stress and essentially help their brain to heal their emotional and mental well-being.