Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an extensively researched, effective psychotherapy method proven to help people recover from trauma and other distressing life experiences, including PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Addiction. EMDR treats single event trauma and the "everyday" memories which lead to people's struggle with low self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, and myriads of other emotional issues.
The American Psychiatric Association, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the World Health Organization recognised EMDR as an effective psychotherapy treatment for trauma and other disturbing experiences.
The brains have a natural way to recover from traumatic memories and events. This process involves communication between the amygdala (the alarm signal for stressful events), the hippocampus (which assists with learning, including memories about safety and danger), and the prefrontal cortex (which analyses and controls behaviour and emotion).
For example, when you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. But the fragment or foreign object continues to irritate the wound and causes pain until you remove it. EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes. The brain's information processing system naturally moves toward mental health. When distress from a disturbing event remains, the disturbing images, thoughts, and emotions may create feelings of being overwhelmed or "frozen in time." EMDR therapy helps the brain process these memories and allows healing to resumes, leading to the resolution of the traumatic memories.
How EMDR Works?
EMDR therapy involves attention to three time periods: the past, present, and future. Treatment will focus on healing the past disturbing memories and their related events. The therapist will also attend to current situations that cause distress and to developing the skills and attitudes needed for positive future actions.
EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment, which includes history taking, resource and processing. The therapist uses eye movements or other bilateral stimulation during or part of the sessions. During the processing, the therapist asks the client to hold different aspects of that event or thought in mind and to use his eyes to track the therapist’s hand as it moves back and forth across the client’s field of vision. As this happens, internal associations arise to process the memory and disturbing feelings, thus allowing for natural healing. The tenet behind this processing is similar to the biological mechanisms involved in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep.
More details about the eight phases of EMDR treatment can be found here.
The resolution of the traumatic memories may be achieved in one single session or several sessions, depending on the severity of the trauma.
Who may benefit from EMDR?
EMDR therapy is suitable for children, youth and adults of all ages.
EMDR is an effective treatment for Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorders, Dissociative Identity Disorders, Eating Disorders, Grief and Loss, and addictions. It is extensively for the treatment of Sexual Abuse, PTSD and other forms of Trauma.
EMDR is also used for the treatment of unexplained Chronic Pain and for enhancing sports and creative performance.
At Restoring Peace, we integrate EMDR Therapy with other modalities, including CBT, Psychodynamic, Expressive Arts, and Ego-States. We also apply Flash Technique to help reduce the clients' distress.
Expressive arts incorporates writing, drawing, painting, pictures and/or sands during the therapy sessions. The objective is to help clients explore their responses, reactions, and insights through these tools. It is useful for people who are visual or those with difficulty to express themselves through talk therapy. A person is not required to have the artistic ability to benefit from expressive arts.
Art expression is beneficial for people who have difficulty verbalising their thoughts and feelings. At Restoring Peace, we use Expressive Arts to help our clients identify their intense emotions and connect with their unconscious during the preparation stage of EMDR.
Flash Technique has been demonstrated to reduce the disturbance level associated with severely painful memories effectively. Like EMDR, Flash utilizes eye movements or alternating tapping and is designed to resolve unprocessed traumatic memories in the brain.
While research is still ongoing, clients who experience the Flash technique reported a rapid reduction of their distress level. The Flash technique is beneficial for clients who have experienced severe trauma and is fearful of connecting to that traumatic event for processing the trauma. An EMDR-trained Trauma Therapist administered Flash Technique to help their client access the memory in less disturbing ways. The aim is to reduce the intensity of those traumatic memories, thus increase the clients capacity to process other traumatic memories that may surface during EMDR treatment.