FAQ: What is EMDR? And how can it help me?
EMDR is short for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. EMDR is a simple, well-researched technique that has been proven to help many people overcome the barriers associated with certain fears or traumatic experiences. For example, a professional golfer with the ‘yips’ can benefit greatly from a few sessions of EMDR.
EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress. Whether you are a martial artists suffering from a freeze response in competition, a bicyclist unable to ride because of a freak accident, or a traumatized adult unable to take control of your life due to serious abuse during childhood, EMDR may offer you some relief.
Because clients are not required to go into details of their life, EMDR is the preferred treatment to improve performance in elite sports.
The treatment consist of 8 phases:
- History and treatment plan. In this phase the therapist takes the life history of the client and together they develop a treatment plan. Working together, they decide what they will be working on, and how many sessions this might take. It is a gentle and safe approach because the client does not have to discuss distressing memories in detail.
- Preparation. During the Preparation Phase, the therapist will explain the theory and practice of EMDR, and what the person can expect during and after treatment. The therapist and the client together work on to develop a variety of relaxation techniques for calming the client in the face of any emotional disturbance that may arise during or after a session. Learning these tools is an important aid for anyone. One goal of EMDR therapy is to make sure that the clients can take care of themselves.
- Assessment. This is the phase where the therapist and client work on exploring the negative belief that is attached to the stressful memory. They also identify and locate the emotion in the body that is connected to that memory. This can be very helpful and rewarding for the clients. Sometimes we are not even aware of why we feel certain emotions. Then, the therapist helps the client to discover a positive belief that can replace the negative, during the processing phase (steps 4,5,&6).
- Desensitization. Whilst the client is safely present, the distressing memory is held in focus, and the client is stimulated biolaterally. This occurs by either listening to a calming sound through headphones, or following the therapist’s hand with their eyes. This stimulation continues until the memory evokes no disturbance in the body. Sounds good, right?
- Installation. In this phase, the positive belief is integrated into the clients’ system with either repeating eye movements or sound.
- Body scan. The client performs a body scan to investigate whether any stresses, traumas or other feelings associated with the distressing memory remain. If there is, then therapist and client assess the nature of these association and decide whether they want to work on it further. If nothing comes up, and the client feels entirely relaxed, they can continue to the closing phases.
- Closure. Every session ends with this phase, to make sure that the client feels better than when they arrived, and to ensure they have all the necessary information and calming skills available, should anything arise between sessions.
- Re-evaluation. All new sessions start with this phase. It is a check in about the last treatment, and a re-assessment of the treatment plan if necessary.
Clients report that after EMDR, they can’t even recall why they were distressed before treatment began. Whilst describing EMDR treatment can sound very technical, a key ingredient here is the connection and safety that is created between client and therapist.