EMDR is a type of psychotherapy that is used for people who have had traumatic life experiences. Before EMDR it could take years of psychotherapy in order to resolve traumatic life events. Now with EMDR people can heal sooner from the symptoms and emotional distress caused by these traumatic life experiences. Much like physical pain once the block is removed the pain can be fixed quicker. EMDR helps to remove the block and allow the person to resolve the pain much quicker. Although someone may be living with a traumatic experience from their past the brain naturally wants to move toward mental health. If the system is blocked in anyway the emotional pain will continue to grow and can cause a person extreme pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes and the brain goes toward positive mental health. EMDR is done in different phases and has many steps that the clinician works on with the client in order to help the client move toward healing from the traumatic event.
EMDR is broken into 8 different phases. Phase 1 is known as the history and treatment plan part. This is when the clinician will spend 1-2 sessions taking a thorough history of the client’s past and forming a treatment plan. During this phase the clinician will determine the specific event that needs to be addressed and if the client is ready to go through the EMDR process. Phase 2 is the preparation phase for the client. This could be 1-4 sessions with a therapist. During this phase the clinician is essentially preparing the client with different techniques to handle emotional stress in between sessions. Phase 3 is the assessment phase. This phase targets 3 specific things, a vivid image related to the traumatic memory, negative believes about self, and related emotions and body sensations. By focusing on a specific memory and negative thoughts, even if the client knows intellectually it is not true, they can begin to work on changing their negative thoughts into positive counter thoughts. Phase 4 deals with desensitization and works in conjunction with phase 3. This phase targets how the client responds to the related emotions and body sensations. Phase 5 is commonly referred to as the installation phase. This phase concentrates on changing negative thoughts from phase 3 into positive thoughts. For example, if the client’s negative thought was “I am powerless over my attacker” they will change the thought into “I am powerful.” Phase 6 is the body scan. This phase is introduced after the client is able to establish positive self-talk. The clinician will ask the client to visualize the specific memory again and determine whether or not they have any physical body reactions to the memory. It is important for the clinician to see if the client is still experiencing a negative reaction to the specific traumatic memory. Phase 7 is the closure phase. During this phase the clinician will have the client keep a log or journal to make sure they are continuing to have positive reactions in their life and not negative ones. It is also a way for the clinician to determine whether or not the client is appropriately using the calming techniques mastered in phase 2. Phase 8 is the reevaluation phase. This is the phase where the clinician continues to monitor the progress made from the treatment.
A lot of research has been done on the positive effects of EMDR. In recent years’ research, has expanded and has proven that EMDR is an effective way to treat traumatic events from someone’s life. Clinicians are using EMDR more and more especially as it is related to drug and alcohol treatment.