The body intuitively knows how to heal physical wounds. Does the mind also intuitively know how to heal mental and emotional wounds? The mind’s innate ability to heal is one of the main premises of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.
When you fall, you may scrape your knee. The body’s natural healing process begins to take over. If splinters are still stuck in the wound or you keep injuring the same area, the healing process is stunted. Once you’ve properly cleaned and protected the area, the body can heal the wound.
Just like healing a wound in the physical body, the brain’s processing system naturally wants to move toward a healthy state of mind. If a disturbing event causes an imbalance or blockage in the mental state, the emotional pain and suffering continues. When the block is removed, the mind is able to continue healing.
Of course, getting rid of a mental block isn’t as easy as a surgeon removing a tumor. Treating mental health disorders is less concrete and could involve a variety of issues. This is a relatively new form of therapy which helps to release the pain caused by traumatic events and other issues.
Use this guide to learn more about it, how it can help you, and where you can find trained therapists:
What is EMDR Therapy and How Does it Work?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a form of therapy used to help individuals deal with emotional distress brought on by disturbing life experiences.
Psychotherapy refers to “talk therapy” where a person establishes a therapeutic relationship with a trained therapist. Together, they work through issues that may cause mental and emotional discomfort. Other types of talk therapy include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT).
EMDR counseling uses the concepts of traditional talk therapy and adds a new element which has been found to speed up the sometimes lengthy process. The procedures used by trained clinicians help individuals activate their mind’s natural healing ability.
As with many therapies, it focuses on the individual. Sessions revolve around a person’s specific issues, past traumas, and developing skills to be more resilient in the future.
How does it work? The process is divided into 8 phases. Here is an overview:
Phase 1: Understanding Your History
You will discuss your history with the therapist. Together you determine the specific problem causing you emotional distress. With the information provided, the therapist develops an individualized treatment plan defining specific targets for processing. During this phase, you also gain insights into your situations and how they impact the way you live.
Phase 2: Preparation
It’s not easy to deal with emotionally-charged memories from your past. In this phase, the therapist teaches you techniques to handle the emotional distress sometimes associated with treatment. These techniques include guided imagery, stress reduction, and relaxation exercises.
Phase 3: Assessment
At this point in your treatment, you and your therapist have determined a target memory to be processed. This includes picking out a specific scene from the targeted event. In addition, you may determine the negative self belief associated with this event. Common negative self beliefs are statements like “I am unlovable” or “I am worthless”.
While working with the therapist, people develop a new belief about the target event. For example, if you believed you were powerless about a situation that happened to you, you may adopt a statement like “I am in control” when visualizing the event.
Phase 4: Desensitization
After the groundwork of the first three phases is established, treatment takes a more active role in controlling emotions. The desensitization phase involves focusing on a target event’s specific images or related thoughts and emotions while engaging in specific eye movements, taps, or tones.
After each set, the therapist asks you to clear your mind and notice what thoughts or emotions develop. Depending on what you report, a new focus of attention may be used. Eventually, the emotional charge from the targeted event loses its power and is no longer overwhelming.
Phase 5: Installation
Once the targeted event doesn’t have as much emotional impact, the therapist will guide you to change your negative belief about the event. The positive statement you developed in the assessment phase may be strengthened, eventually replacing your negative belief.
Phase 6: Body Scan
If you think back to a distressing event in your life, your body probably reacts to it. You may not even notice this is happening. For instance, if you think of a time when someone insulted you in front of a group of people, you may feel your fists start to clench. Of course, if the event has lost its emotional charge, your body may not react in the same way. During the body scan phase, you will once again recall the targeted event and sense any lingering reactions or tension in your body. This will determine if more work is necessary.
Phase 7: Closure
With many types of counseling, the closure phase is designed to highlight the insights gained from a session. This processing allows you to discuss present issues as well as your concerns for the near future. The therapist may also ask you to journal any thoughts and emotions arising after the session.
Phase 8: Reevaluation
In the final phase, you discuss your progress with the therapist. This can include talking about related memories, present struggles, and future treatment goals.
This therapy is not simply thinking about a troubling memory and moving your eyes in a certain way. In fact, it is a methodical process using a specific set of evidence-based protocols.
How are Certified EMDR Therapists Trained?
This therapy has a solid foundation in scientifically-backed principles, so proper training is essential. According to the EMDR International Association, advanced degrees are necessary to even be eligible for the training program. Mental health clinicians must have a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, social work, or other related fields. Nurses must also have a master’s degree with a specialization in psychiatric mental health.
Training involves an intensive 50-hour basic curriculum where candidates learn the framework of the therapy. Therapists also learn from live and videotaped demonstrations. In addition, trainees undergo supervised practice with feedback to ensure they understand and follow protocols.
To become a certified EMDR therapist, the clinician must also have two years of experience in their field. Once the training is completed, they need to conduct a minimum of fifty clinical sessions and receive twenty hours of consultation by an approved therapist. Continuing education is also required to maintain the certification.
Can I Just Do This On My Own?
The internet is full of information about treating yourself using this technique. Is it possible to treat yourself? Sure, some people have success. Others experience difficulties.
Look at it this way: Just about everybody has the ability to exercise. Some establish routines and stay motivated independently. Others have the intention of going to the gym, but other things get in the way. Some choose to exercise, but they work out incorrectly which increases the risk for injury and decreases the results. Many people use the help of personal trainers to stay motivated, learn effective exercise routines, and prevent injuries.
A certified therapist will guide you through the best practices to make this intervention effective. In addition, since you are often dealing with very emotionally-charged memories, the therapist will ensure you’re not retraumatizing yourself using a technique you found during an online search.
Just like a personal trainer prevents you from lifting a dangerous amount of weight after years of inactivity, a therapist will make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk for further trauma or setbacks.
How Does it Help in Substance Abuse Treatment?
Many people turn to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with difficult emotions. Relationship problems, difficult memories, anxiety, and depression all can contribute to a person’s addictive behaviors. In addition, the pleasure sometimes associated with destructive, compulsive behaviors creates and solidifies addictive habits.
One of the main focuses is neutralizing traumatic experiences and emotionally-charged memories to help a person become empowered to change the way he or she views them. This new perspective creates a more positive mindset where drugs or alcohol are no longer a means to cope.
EMDR can even take battling addiction a step further. It trains the person to break the connection between the pleasure and destructive behavior. This helps neutralize the power substances have over you.
What are the Pros and Cons?
As with any type of physical or mental treatment, the risks and rewards should be considered. One of the major advantages of this treatment is that it takes less time to reduce negative symptoms compared to other therapies.
What is it that makes this approach more efficient than others? A common hypothesis suggests the simultaneous attention to the negative event and a neutral stimulus (eye movement, tapping, tones, etc.) helps elicit an orienting response. This triggers the mind’s natural curiosity to view the negative event from different perspectives. By neutralizing the intense emotions associated with the negative event, you are more equipped to deal with it proactively.
According to the EMDR Institute, some people may be able to process a single trauma in as little as 3 sessions. Of course, this number varies based on several factors and depends on your specific issues and history. Some people may take up to 12 sessions to process past traumas and outline a plan for future success.
Another benefit is the ability to treat multiple symptoms. It has helped those with addiction as well as anxiety, depression, trauma, and relationship issues.
One of the main risks is having to re-experience the trauma causing you distress. This can bring up painful memories and sensations you buried over time with the help of substances. This may also cause a new emergence of emotions, thoughts, or even dreams about the event. This is why it is crucial to have a trained therapist with extensive training and certification to guide you through the process. If you try dealing with the emotionally-charged event on your own, you may not have the tools and coping skills to manage it, but a therapist will make sure you aren’t experiencing too much distress.
Is EMDR Effective?
Nearly three decades of research has been conducted on the effectiveness of this therapy. Several studies suggest receiving this type of therapy from a qualified professional can significantly improve symptoms of trauma, depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental disorders.
For example, a study published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders determined that it appears to be effective for those suffering from anxiety. The study also concluded it is at least as effective as treatments like relaxation techniques and active listening for those with posttraumatic stress reactions. In addition, a study performed by Ying-Ren Chen et al, (2014) concluded that it “significantly reduces the symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and subjective distress in PTSD patients.”
But is it effective for addiction treatment? A study conducted by Hase et al. (2008) in the Journal of EMDR Practice and Research found those with alcohol dependency showed a “significant reduction in cravings posttreatment and 1 month after treatment where TAU [treatment as usual] did not.”
These are just a few of the many studies affirming this practice as a valid, reliable treatment approach to many mental health conditions, including addiction.
Is There EMDR Therapy Near Me in Denver?
If you’re interested in receiving counseling for your addiction and live in the Denver, Colorado area or are interested in traveling here, Denver Recovery Center can help. We provide a comfortable, serene environment away from the stressors and triggers that may be currently associated with substance abuse.
Our highly trained and experienced EMDR therapists have helped others with their addictions through this and other proven therapies.
Denver Recovery Center specializes in person-centered holistic care. We know everyone’s situation is different and that’s why we use the most effective, evidence-based approaches to battling addiction. From individual counseling and group therapy to exciting experiential opportunities, we believe everyone has the potential to live the sober and happy life they desire.
Contact Us Today To See if This Therapy is Right for You
If you or a loved one is battling addiction, you want to make sure every tool is available for a successful recovery. This therapy has helped many people finally deal with their inner turmoil and release the firm grasp of addiction.
Denver Recovery Center is ready to help you pave the path for a brighter future. We offer a full continuum of care using a variety of approaches, so you can once again get your life back. Our admission specialists would love to chat with you today to find out how we can help. Call us today at (844) 307-2955 or contact us using our online form to get a response in writing.