How Does EMDR Work?

How Does EMDR Work?

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is used in psychotherapy to treat those struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders

According to the EMDR International Association, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been successfully used in the treatment of trauma. EMDR works to help patients suffering from the recall of traumatic events move forward by helping them get their brain out of the feedback loop that repeats the traumatic images. Because remembering a trauma can be almost as bad as experiencing the trauma for the first time, EMDR helps patients move beyond the sights, images, smells and feelings of the original experience. The EMDR International Association reports that the treatment method “seems to have a direct effect on the way the brain processes information.” Once normal processing returns after an EMDR session, the person dealing with the trauma is able to move past the feedback loop of the feelings, images and sounds that are remembered when the trauma is brought to mind. EMDR seems to be similar to what happens naturally during REM, (rapid eye movement) sleep.

EMDR Phases of Treatment

EMDR treatment is broken down into eight distinct phases. Each phase plays a role in the entire desensitization process. The length of time treatment lasts depends on the individual being treated and how easily each phase of treatment is completed. The goal is to treat the patient aside from a specified amount of time. The eight phases of EMDR are as follows:

  • History and Treatment Planning – This first phase of EMDR treatment involves determining the history of the patient and planning treatment that best meets his or her needs. This phase typically takes one to two sessions.
  • Preparation – During the preparation phase, which typically takes one to four sessions, the therapist works to establish a relationship of trust with the client. If a patient does not adequately trust his therapist, he may not report what he is experiencing during rapid eye movement accurately.
  • Assessment – In this phase the clinician identifies the aspects of the target to be processed that best represents the memory as a whole.
  • Desensitization – Focuses on the clients disturbing memories and sensations, giving each a SUDS rating. In this phase the therapist leads the patient through a series of eye movements with appropriate shifts and changes of focus.
  • Installation – Increases the concentration and focus on the positive belief that replaces the negative belief.
  • Body Scan – After installation, the therapist asks the patient to recall the original target trauma to see if he notices any residual tension. If so, the physical sensation can be targeted for reprocessing.
  • Closure – Closure is a part of every session and is used to make sure the patients feels better at the end of the session than he did at the beginning.
  • Reevaluation – Opens every EMDR session. During reevaluation, the therapist addresses each target that has been completed to make sure that the positive results achieved in the session have been maintained.

Finding Help for Drug Addiction and Mental Illness

EMDR is an effective treatment for drug addiction and mental illness for many people. Learning to cope in positive ways with past traumas that may be responsible for present issues helps those who struggle learn to live a drug-free life. If you or a loved one struggles with addiction, we are here to help you. Call our toll-free helpline, available 24 hours a day, to speak to an admissions coordinator about treatment options.