Life is unquestionably a series of incidents – some pleasant (positive) and some not-so-pleasant (negative) that shapes the collective consciousness of every individual. These experiences have the inevitable power to guide how individuals choose to lead their daily lives. The range of unfortunate life experiences such as emotional distress, hostility, abuse, or neglect may have grave repercussions later in life, such as addiction, chronic low self-esteem, or mental illness.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment are one of the accepted treatments based on sound psychotherapy principles used to treat people who have Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Recently, there has been enough clinical evidence of EMDR being used to treat various situations like anxiety, pain management, addiction recovery, phobia, and dermatological disorders.
What is EMDR ?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is psychotherapy designed and developed by Dr.Francine Shapiro that uses techniques such as eye and hand movements to assist individuals in removing negative associations during regular personal interactions. The therapy aims to help a person change behavior to tame the problems in the anticipated ways. It was originally developed to attend to post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and phobias manifestations.
The Theory behind EMDR treatment
The EMDR therapy relies on the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro, 2001a) to elucidate and predict the efficacy of the treatment. Shapiro F. (2001a). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures. New York, NY: Guilford. One of the key beliefs of the AIP model is the understanding that like our body recovers from a physical wound by virtue of the body’s internal mechanism; our mind also repairs the mental wounds inflicted during negative interactions. The multiple elements of each experience are processed and stored as memories in an accessible and usable form. Memories have a linked network of images, thoughts, sensations, and emotions. When new associations are made with already stored elements in the memory, learning takes place.
During an adverse traumatic incident, the information processing function may get compromised because of the excessive negative feeling interfering with the process. As a result, the memory is cached without the correct associative connections. These incompletely stored memories that are not entirely processed become the cause of numerous mental disorders, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), chronic addiction, affective disorders, chronic pain, and phobias.
How does EMDR work?
The EMDR therapy sessions involve revisiting your traumatic experiences or triggers in already agreed brief doses. At the same time, the therapist uses hand movements and other tactile techniques to guide the individual’s eye movements side by side (or other sensory input modality), like viewing a pendulum swing, hand tapping, etc.
The objective of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing treatment is to complete the information processing of the dysfunctional memories by linking the targeted memory to more adaptive information. The experience is thus stored with the right set of emotions. This helps the person process past encounters and sort out their feelings about them in a safe space. The negative emotions are replaced by positive sentiments that will encourage healthier habits and relationships.
Stages of the EMDR treatment process
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing therapy is an eight-stage treatment.
Stage 1: Understanding the background and planning the treatment
Like in any medical diagnosis, understanding the history of the patient is crucial to plan the appropriate treatment. This stage also includes talking about the trauma and identifying potential traumatic memories to treat specifically.
Stage 2: Preparation
The clinician helps set realistic level of expectations. In this session the therapist talks about, and trains if necessary, self-control measures that the individual must practice to maintain a continuum during and between sessions. During this stage, the therapist discusses the relationship between the trauma and the addiction to explain the treatment objective of active processing of the trauma.
Stage 3: Assessment
In the third stage of the EMDR treatment, the client and the therapist together identify the specific memories that are to be targeted for the particular session and all the associated components like a vivid image or physical sensations for the target memory.
Stage 4: Desensitization
Your therapist will then begin using EMDR therapy techniques to treat your targeted memories. During these sessions, you will be asked to focus on a negative thought, memory, or image.
Your therapist will simultaneously have you do specific eye movements. The bilateral stimulation may also include taps or other movements mixed in, depending on your case.
After the bilateral stimulation, your therapist will ask you to let your mind go blank and notice the thoughts and feelings you’re having spontaneously. After you identify these thoughts, your therapist may have you refocus on that traumatic memory, or move on to another.
If you become distressed, your therapist will help bring you back to the present before moving on to another traumatic memory. Over time, the distress over particular thoughts, images, or memories should start to fade.
Stage 5: Installation
In this stage, the clinician attempts to intensify the power of the positive cognitions to try and replace the negative ones.
Stage 6: Body Scan
This stage checks the client’s body for any physical response to the targeted memory and is used to adjust the body responses.
Stage 7: Closure
This is the stage in between reprocessing. Here the client is asked to be aware of the disturbances that might arise in between sessions and make notes in order to address the issues in future sessions.
Stage 8: Re-evaluation and reiteration for future treatment
In the final phase, the client and the therapist, individually and jointly,evaluate progress after these sessions to check for optimal treatment effects.
At Silver Lining, the process measures that we ardently follow during the implementation of EMDR treatment at our Orange County, California, facility are aimed to support quality programs that:
- Provide the conducive environment to our patrons to initiate and facilitate the self-exploration process.
- Assists our clinicians to help individuals in self-reflection, discussion, and building of continuing collaborations among the healing population.
- Focus on an individual’s holistic healing in all spheres of their life – social, physical, emotional, creative and cognitive.
- Establish receptive and positive relationships.
- Engage with their families and learn to appreciate their unique perspectives and contributions.
- Use documentation to study, interpret and make visible the healing process of individuals.
These approaches support the individuals as they learn to accept and move beyond their own deep-rooted negative beliefs along a developmental continuity and make way for a smoother transition from negativity to acceptance to ultimate positivity.