EMDR Therapy: What Is It, And How Do You Know If It’s Right For You?
It seems like everywhere you look these days, people are carrying, recommending and sharing “The Body Keeps the Score,” the guide to understanding the “Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma” by psychiatrist, author, researcher and trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk, that people have called the Trauma Bible.
In the celebrated book, van der Kolk talks about Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy, more often known as EMDR, as a potent form of treating and largely healing traumatic memories stored in our mind and body.
But what really is EMDR, and how do you know whether it can be right for you? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about EMDR Therapy and how it can help you!
What is EMDR Therapy and how does it work?
Initially developed in 1987 for the treatment of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), EMDR is a form of structured and finite therapy that guides the patient through healing from the pain and effects of traumatic memories during the course of six to twelve sessions.
Unlike traditional forms of therapy, EMDR therapy incorporates the use of eye movements and other forms of rhythmic stimulation, such as looking to the left and then to the right or tapping, to reduce the potency of the emotion associated with the traumatic memory. At the same time, patients are supported by a trained professional through calling to mind specific traumatic memories and beginning the “desensitisation and reprocessing” part of the session.
In doing so, EMDR therapy allows patients to process distressing events and “move on” from them, even when they have kept us stuck in our pain and difficulties for a long time. Numerous randomised studies have confirmed its effectiveness in addressing adverse life experiences and and healing their negative outcome: EMDR has been described as “an efficient treatment approach with a wide range of applications” and as a “more rapid and/or more effective” treatment compared to trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy.
The benefits of EMDR Therapy
There are several reasons you might be interested in trying EMDR therapy, and we’re here to tell you all about its many benefits.
By helping you process and make peace with the past, EMDR can help you let go of any memories, traumatic or not, that may be keeping you from living out your life and starting a new chapter of your life.
For those of us who find talking about trauma difficult, or wish not to tell a therapist the same stories over and over again in hopes of unlocking the magic key to feeling better about them, EMDR is an effective way to find healing with minimal talking and in a comparably short amount of time.
Last, but definitely not least: results are not always immediate, but since EMDR targets the very root of the issue you’re wanting to treat, it often works a lot quicker than other forms of therapy.
How do you know if EMDR Therapy is right for you?
EMDR therapy is suitable for children and adults alike, and it can be offered alongside other forms of therapy as well as on its own. It will usually begin with a full evaluation of the patient’s wellbeing and needs, after which the therapist will determine the right course of action and length of treatment.
EMDR therapy is primarily known for its effectiveness when it comes to treating trauma and PTSD, but its efficacy is actually way more wide-ranging than you’d think. In addition to being a safe and worthwhile method for addressing stress, anxiety, depression, phobias and chronic pain, it can also have a positive effect on patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), personality disorders and neurodegenerative disorders.
EMDR therapy can also be used to help support anyone who is dealing with the death of a loved one, fighting a form of addiction, mood or eating disorders, as well as patients experiencing a wide range of debilitating medical conditions such as burn injury, hallucinations, psychosis, sexual dysfunction, and sleep disorders. The list goes on, and on, and on!
Are there risks from using EMDR therapy?
When performed with the help and support of a trained and trusted professional, EMDR is a completely safe and considerably beneficial form of therapy: even the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recommend it, especially for people suffering from PTSD.
A common misconception is that during EMDR sessions, the patient is asked to relive the trauma they experienced, but that is simply not the case ––sessions can be emotionally intense, as they should be considering the gravity of what they aim to address, but they should always help you feel lighter and freer, never leave you feeling worse than you did when you started.
At the end of the session, the therapist will help stabilise you and guide you through self-control techniques so you can centre yourself and re-enter the world outside your therapist’s office without any problems. You might feel a little lightheaded, but this will likely resolve itself in no time.
The bottom line
Perhaps you read “The Body Keeps the Score” and were interested in knowing more about trauma work in general, or perhaps you were always curious about EMDR and never quite got around to trying it yourself? Either way, we know starting a journey of self-discovery and healing is no joke. We’re proud of you for reading through to the end of this in-depth overview of EMDR therapy and its many benefits, and we hope it’s helped guide you to the deep and fulfilling peace you deserve.