What is EMDR Therapy?

What is EMDR therapy? In your search for mental health treatment, you may have seen and been confused by this acronym. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. What is EMDR therapy, then? EMDR therapy treats post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Women suffer from PTSD after physical or sexual assault, military combat, or car accidents. Soledad House offers an EMDR therapy program in California as part of our addiction and mental health treatment programs.

What Is EMDR Therapy Theory?

The theory behind EMDR is that negative thoughts and behaviors develop because people don’t address traumatic events. The brain stores these events as painful memories that can disrupt emotional, mental, and social function. EMDR revisits these memories to help the brain understand and contain them. Eye movements help therapists learn how your brain processes traumatic information. With the therapist’s help, your mind discards these negative thoughts to move past trauma. 

What Happens In EMDR Sessions?

EMDR treatment consists of multiple sessions over eight stages, with each session taking more than an hour. During the meetings, the therapist directs your eye movements as you revisit traumatic experiences. The therapist moves their finger back and forth in front of your eyes, asking you to follow the flow. While moving their finger, the therapist asks you to recall your traumatic experiences. For EMDR to succeed, recalling the bodily sensations and emotions of the trauma is necessary. The therapist then helps you shift to pleasant thoughts using musical notes or by tapping their toes or hands. 

The Eight Stages of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy occurs in eight phases, with the whole process taking over a year in some cases. In phase one, patients provide their history and traumatic memories. Those with more negative memories require more sessions. In phase two, therapists prepare their patients to revisit their trauma. Patients learn coping and relaxation skills in advance so that painful feelings don’t overwhelm them during treatment. The second phase takes up to four sessions.

In phase three, therapists lead patients in picturing the negative memory. Patients think of a negative belief stemming from the memory, and a positive mindset as a goal to reach. For example, a negative belief could be, “I’m worthless,” and a positive one could be “I’m a good person.”

Phase four is desensitization, marking the beginning of reprocessing. Therapists ask patients to become aware of negative sensations while they guide their eye movements. They might use their hand, physical tapping, or sounds as guidance. Therapists continue using this stimulation until their patients report a lower level of distress. Phase five focuses on processing the positive belief from phase three. Therapists stimulate their patients’ eye movements as they think about positive ideas. 

Phase six checks if the previous steps worked. Therapists ask patients to recall any remaining harmful elements from their traumatic memories. However, if any remain, patients go back to phase four. Phase seven involves closure, with patients leaving their sessions feeling better than before they arrived. Phase eight involves assessing progress. During this session, the therapists decide whether or not to continue addressing the same negative belief. If not, they move on to a new negative view and positive idea relating to traumatic memories.

The Benefits of EMDR Therapy

EMDR therapy doesn’t solely treat your PTSD, and neither does Soledad House. EMDR also helps with other psychological problems such as:

Soledad House offers a variety of women’s behavioral therapy programs. Since 1989, more than 20,000 specialists have trained to practice EMDR. Soledad House’s staff includes trained EMDR staff ready to help you overcome your PTSD and move ahead with your life. Before we admit you for EMDR, we review your history to decide whether or not EMDR works for your needs. 

If you’re a woman with PTSD and want help, contact us online or call Soledad House today at 866.314.3222. Begin your healing journey with us today.