EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an extremely effective therapy for PTSD, anxiety, phobias, and a number of other mental health diagnoses. What sets it apart from other therapies is the use of bilateral stimulation, usually in the form of eye movements, tactile vibrations, or audio. But that's only ONE part of this evidence based psychotherapy. There are so many other aspects of EMDR Therapy which help to make it a successful treatment in the field of mental health.
More than just Phase 4
Many individuals think that they're only doing EMDR if they're actually moving their eyes (or using the tappers or audio, other forms of bilateral stimulation). The eye movements are actually part of Phase 4 of EMDR, which is an 8 Phase Therapeutic Approach. (Download my free EMDR Handbook to get more info on the 8 Phases)
What really makes EMDR so effective is that it's based on the trauma informed model. This means that together, you and your therapist approach your history with curiosity. Together, you explore your life experiences, such as things that have happened to you, or maybe DIDN'T happen to you (like emotional neglect) to help bring clarity to the development of your symptoms (such as depression and anxiety).
It also extremely important to never rush into Phase 4 of EMDR, for a whole host of reasons. Most importantly, phase 4 should never be conducted until a client can maintain dual awareness - that means being able to have one foot in a memory and one foot in the present moment. Without that, reprocessing will not only be ineffective, but it can worsen symptoms of dissociation or emotional avoidance.
What happens after the Eye Movements?
Phases 5, 6, 7 and 8 are also really important in EMDR Therapy! During these phases, you make sure that the resolution of the trauma actually sticks and that the newer, positive beliefs about yourself become ingrained in the memory. For example, now when you think about your childhood, you no longer think "I'm not good enough", but instead you believe "I'm fine the way that I am".
These phases are also important to make sure that there is no residual pieces of the trauma(s) that are left unprocessed. This can sometimes show up as physical pain or discomfort. (A great book that addresses this is The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk - an EXCELLENT book on trauma that I frequently recommend to clients.)
If you have questions about the process, talk to your therapist! I'm a huge believer that knowledge is power, and I always tell my clients the reasons why we're doing certain things in our sessions. I think that helps alleviate any anxiety they may have, which sets the stage for successful outcomes in therapy.
About the Author
Dana Carretta-Stein is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and founder of Peaceful Living Mental Health Counseling, PLLC, and Carretta Consulting in Scarsdale, NY. She specializes in clinical psychotherapy to treat children, adolescents and adults with anxiety, behavior and trauma difficulties.
She is a certified EMDR therapist, consultant in training, and Regional Coordinator of the Westchester EMDR Regional Network.
Dana is also a business coach for wellness practitioners who are looking to build and grow their private practice.
For more information, visit dana.carretta.com