If you are looking for a treatment that does not require talking in detail about the distressing issues or events that are troubling you EMDR therapy might be the right fit for you. EMDR is an evidence based, experiential set of methods completed in session that allow the the brain to naturally heal and resolve unprocessed traumatic memories. I will be here to guide you through the process every step of the way. I am a Level 2 Trained EMDR Therapist.
EMDR therapy naturally allows for new learning to occur and new beliefs to form. The troubling memories remain, but the distress is left in the past. The result is an increased sense of ease, confidence, safety, and equanimity when memories of the distressing event are triggered. This happens naturally through the EMDR process and for many clients engagement in EMDR methods will significantly reduce the length of treatment.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in the 1980's and since then over 7 million people have been treated successfully by 110,000 therapists in 130 countries (Shapiro & Forrest, 2016).
Who Can Benefit?
Research supports the use of EMDR to address a wide range of client concerns for children and adults including:
Anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias
Chronic Illness and medical issues
Grief and loss
Violence and abuse
How Does It Work?
EMDR therapy sets in motion the communication necessary for processing memory amongst the amygdala (our alarm bell), the hippocampus (our facilitator of learning and memory about safety and danger) and the prefrontal cortex (our behavioral analyst and controller of behavior and emotion). While this happens naturally, sometimes our brain gets stuck and needs some help to process and resolve the distress.
When distress from the past feels present today it can trigger our natural instincts to fight, flight, or freeze. EMDR therapy allows normal healing to resume so that the memory remains, but the stress response is gone.
Experiencing EMDR Therapy
A typical EMDR session lasts 60-90 minutes and can be integrated into TEAM-CBT treatment as a powerful method, or used as a stand-alone treatment process in which other evidence based methods may be integrated as indicated.
Let's Work Together
What to Expect...The Eight Phases of EMDR Therapy:
History taking and treatment planning
Initial sessions will include a thorough assessment of history, needs and goals for treatment. You will have a chance to share your concerns and feel heard and understood. You will gain an understanding of the EMDR protocol and together we will make a plan to resolve your symptoms. Assessments will be taken of your mood and distress at each session to allow for clear understanding of treatment progress. These steps constitute the first phase of EMDR therapy.
Preparation is the second phase of EMDR therapy. You will spend time developing positive resources (methods/tools) to help the body learn to feel safe. I will guide you to develop tools for accessing and returning to a felt sense of calm, safety and support. Once developed these tools can be used throughout the EMDR therapy process, whenever needed. This portion of therapy can take as long as it needs to, however typically this will take 2-3 sessions.
In this third phase of treatment you will identify the target event you would like to reprocess. I will then invite you to bring attention to negative images, beliefs, emotions, and body sensations related to the distressing event. Your distress will be measured using the Subjective Units of Distress (SUD) scale and the Validity of Cognition (VOC) scale.
Phases 4-6 constitute the reprocessing portion of EMDR therapy. In the fourth phase, desensitization, I will review the purpose and use of the dual attention bilateral stimulation (BLS) and we will decide on a preferred form of BLS. This process activates memory processing in your brain while allowing you to keep one foot firmly in the present. The bilateral stimulation can take the form of side to side eye movements, sounds, buzzers or taps (e.g. alternate tapping of hands or feet). Throughout the desensitization phase, I will periodically check in to assess your distress using the SUD scale until the SUDs reaches either a 0 or a 1. You may experience new images, thoughts, sensations and emotions during this process. I will be right here with you through the entire process and you are free to stop processing at any time and return to positive resourcing.
Phases 4 - 6 will occur within the framework of one session and may be repeated at additional sessions for processing additional targets. In Phase 5 we move to the installation phase. I will let you know that we are moving to the installation phase and review your selection of a positive belief once the desensitization phase is complete. You will identify a desired positive belief and pair it with the target event until you feel the belief is 100% valid and true.
Phase 6 consist of a body scan. You will be asked to bring your awareness throughout your body to scan for any tension, tightness or unusual sensations. Any lingering somatic disturbance noted will then be reprocessed using the dual attention BLS.
Phases 7 and 8 of EMDR are designed with your safety in mind. In Phase 7 you are assisted to reorient yourself fully to the present moment and provided supportive comments and directions for expectations and care following your session. If the reprocessing remains incomplete, you will be directed to utilize previously developed positive resources so that you can return to a calm state. We will plan to return to the reprocessing phases when you are ready.
Reevaluation occurs at the next session, after a target has been reprocessed. Any new insights or material can be discussed. A review of VOC of positive cognition and check in on SUDs of the processed target will occur. Any future targets for reprocessing can be identified and a plan for continued treatment will occur. Once all targets are processed, we will implement relapse prevention tools and your treatment will be complete.
The American Psychiatric Association, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (USVA) and Department of Defense (USDOD), the United Kingdom’s National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE), and the World Health Organization (WHO), and multiple global organizations now recognize the effectiveness of EMDR therapy that Dr. Shapiro developed.
Maxfield, L. (2019). A clinician’s guide to the efficacy of EMDR therapy. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research [Editorial], 13(4), 239-246. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1891/1933-3184.108.40.206
Shapiro, F., & Forrest, M. S. (2016). EMDR: The breakthrough therapy for overcoming anxiety, stress, and trauma. Hachette UK
Van der Kolk, B.A., Spinazzola, J., Blaustein, M.E., Hopper, J.W., Hopper, E.K., Korn, D. L., & Simpson, W.B. (2007). A randomized clinical trial of eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), fluoxetine, and pill placebo in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder: treatment effects and long-term maintenance. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 68(1), 37-46.
Bongaerts, H. Voorendonk, E. M., van Minnen, A., & de Jongh, A. (2021). Safety and effectiveness of intensive treatment for complex PTSD delivered via home-based telehealth. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 12(1), 1860346. Open access: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2020.1860346