Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) represents a relatively new type of psychological testing that has increased in popularity, especially for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of PTSD develop under a wide range of circumstances, including car accidents, physical assaults, and military combat. EMDR therapy does not depend on more traditional methods such as medications and verbal conversations.
Instead, EMDR therapy leverages the rapid eye movements of patients to make progress in alleviating the negative symptoms that develop from a condition like PTSD.
What Can a Patient Expect from EMDR Therapy?
A client undergoing EMDR therapy spends time in a session that can last as long as 90 minutes. The therapist conducting the session moves fingers in front of your eyes, while you follow the hand motions by paying close attention. While you keep focused on the hand movements, the therapist asks you to describe a harrowing event in your life. Recounting the harrowing event requires you to concentrate your emotions and the sensation your body feels.
When you finish recalling a past disturbing event, the therapist switches topics by asking you to concentrate on a positive life event. Following EMDR therapy techniques can diminish the powerful negative emotions and body sensations that are associated with recounting a past disturbing life event.
Although therapists implement EMDR therapy techniques mostly for PTSD patients, the techniques used have expanded to include addictions, panic attacks, eating disorders.
What Are the Phases of EMDR?
EMDR therapy involves eight phases. The first phase requires the patient to provide a full medical history, which a therapist refers to when planning a treatment strategy. Preparation for an EMDR session includes the therapist explaining the treatment and introduction of the procedures the client can expect to undergo. An assessment follows, which measures a client’s memory component, such as images, affect, cognition, and body sensations.
Desensitization represents the phase when the therapist implements the hand movements technique while the client recalls a past harrowing life event. The client reports any new thoughts that have developed since the last EMDR session. When the client makes the transition to focusing on a more pleasant life event, the installation phase reinforces the positive recall of the past event. Closure involves the client observing the physical response to the recall of a past positive life event.
Closure ends one session that leads to a reevaluation that takes place at the next EMDR therapy session. The reevaluation examines the results of recalling the negative and positive life events the client described during the previous session. EMDR therapy can be a strategy used for individual child or adult therapy.