Introduction to EMDR Therapy
EMDR therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy) is an emotional therapy that is recognized as an effective form of trauma treatment in numerous practice guidelines worldwide. EMDR is clinically proven (more than twenty randomized studies support the effectiveness of the therapy in the treatment of PTSD) to accelerate the treatment of a wide range of problems and self-esteem issues related both to disturbing past traumatic events and present life conditions.
As of today, 31.3 million Americans are struggling with PTSD and there are promising results coming from EMDR as an effective therapy. It helps patients clear negative emotions linked to traumatic experiences or disturbing memories. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a comprehensive, integrative psychotherapy approach. It contains elements of many effective psychotherapies in structured protocols that are designed to maximize treatment effects. These include psychodynamic, cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, experiential, and body-centered therapies.
EMDR is a psychotherapy technique that helps patients who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, post-traumatic stress, and many other emotional problems.
Benefits of EMDR Therapy
Clinical experience has shown that EMDR may be used for a number of conditions and issues and that the benefits include:
- Activates both sides of the brain in order to help them integrate, and reprocess any disturbing events or memories, similar to how REM sleep works
- Frees from destructive thinking, limiting beliefs, disturbing memories, and it seems to work in cases where years of conventional talk therapy has made no progress
- Works quicker than conventional talk therapy ( According to the EMDR Institute website, research has shown that between 84% and 100% of PTSD victims who had experienced a single trauma recovered fully after 3 to 6 sessions)
- Helps restore a positive future outlook and enhance the ability to feel pleasure and make emotional connections in individuals with PTSD
- Can be used in the treatment of a variety of other psychiatric disorders, physical health issues, and other common emotional problems and life challenges
How EMDR Works
The user inhales the air via a comfortable cannula for about 20-30 minutes. The effect may be compared to inhaling a potentiated concentration of fresh mountain or sea air. As a result, it becomes easier for cells to utilize oxygen in the body. Patients will normally experience positive effects pretty quickly because improved oxygen utilization promotes (mitochondrial) cell activity and communication, regulates metabolism and releases new vital energy.
EMDR psychotherapy is an information processing therapy and uses an eight-phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. The therapy offers a reprocessing of disturbing life experiences-resulting in a significant reduction or elimination of symptoms such as emotional distress, intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares. EMDR attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.
The model used to explain the cornerstone of the EMDR approach is AIP – Adaptive Information Processing. The information processing system registers experiences/emotions and stores them within memory networks. This information processing system, like all other body systems, is intrinsically geared toward homeostasis/health.
However, when not processed adaptively at the time of the event, disturbing memories/emotions are dysfunctionally stored in memory networks and consequently cause current perceptions to be interpreted in a dysfunctional way; they block experiences from being adaptively processed. Reprocessing traumatic events with the assistance of EMDR allows “overriding” the blocks and dysfunctionally stored memories and replaces/transmutes them into an adaptive resolution.
EMDR therapy shows that the mind can, in fact, heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to heal the wound. If there is something that irritates the wound, it causes pain. Once the object is removed, healing resumes. Similarly, EMDR therapy works on mental processes.
During treatment, various procedures and protocols are used to address the entire clinical picture. One of the procedural elements is “dual stimulation” using either bilateral eye movements, tones or taps. During the reprocessing phases, the client attends momentarily to past memories, present triggers, or anticipated future experiences while simultaneously focusing on a set of external stimuli. During that time, clients generally experience the emergence of insight, changes in memories, or new associations. The practitioner assists the client to focus on appropriate material before initiation of each subsequent set.
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Behind the Science
Science & Safety
The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences, 2014 The Permanente Journal
According to a study published by Francine Shapiro, PhD, life experiences may cause a wide range of psychological symptoms and EMDR is a suitable therapy for addressing any traumatic or negative events. In fact, twenty-four randomized studies supported this statement. Some of the studies reported that EMDR therapy may be more effective than other trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapies. Other studies noted rapid decreases in negative emotions and/or intensity of disturbing images.
Efficacy of the eye movement desensitization procedure in the treatment of traumatic memories, 1989 Journal of Traumatic Stress
In another study conducted by Francine Shapiro, PhD, 22 patients suffered from symptoms related to traumatic experiences, including the Vietnam War, childhood sexual molestation and emotional abuse. Patients involved in the research experienced intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, sleep disorders, and relationship problems. The results indicated that after a single session of eye movement desensitization procedure, the patient’s devastating recollections were reduced and their approach to the event was changed.
Integrating neurobiology of emotion regulation and trauma therapy: reflections on EMDR therapy, 2017 Rev Neurosci
In a review of recent developments in the field of emotion regulation connecting trauma-oriented therapy issues with the practical implementation of psychotherapeutic procedures, it was found that: “EMDR is a well-defined and protocol-based intervention, with strong empirical support for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)”.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing vs. Treatment-as-Usual for Non-Specific Chronic Back Pain Patients with Psychological Trauma: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study, 2016 Front Psychiatry
There is preliminary evidence that pain-focused EMDR might be useful for nsCBP (non-specific chronic back pain) patients with previous experiences of psychological trauma, with benefits for pain intensity maintained over 6 months.
Where does EMDR fall on the medical spectrum?
EMDR therapy falls under the ‘Psychology’ and ‘Emotional Therapies’ section of the medical spectrum.
Also known as holistic medicine, it is the study and application of nature, botany, energy, and technology to bring the body back to balance and address the root causes of disease without detrimental side effects, toxins and chemicals, or a lifetime of intervention.
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Also known as European Biological Medicine, this modality, popular in Germany and Switzerland, applies numerous therapies that aim to restore the body’s regulatory and self-healing capacity by promoting proper regeneration on a cellular and organ level.
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Conventional medicine is the most recognized and practiced section of the medical spectrum that includes pharmacological drugs, surgical procedures, lab testing, and more in an attempt to reduce symptoms and manage disease.
The Innovative Medicine approach considers all conventional options and appropriately prescribes or refers patients to specialists in which this approach would be most suited.
Mental health and the study of mind-body medicine is an integral part of the medical spectrum that can often go overlooked and unaddressed.
The study of psycho-neuro-immunology (PNI) has shown how our thoughts and psychological state impact our biochemistry and can lead to disease. Any comprehensive treatment plan must address psychological stress to be successful.
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Spiritual Practices & Therapies
We often confuse spiritual practices with religion, but the role of spirituality, consciousness, awareness, purpose, and information on a quantum level is incredibly important in healing.
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EMDR Protocol – Receiving Treatments
The New York Center of Innovative Medicine (NYCIM) offers EMDR therapy. However, the use of this or any of our numerous therapeutic options is only performed on patients after an in-depth health evaluation. Our ultimate goal is the complete restoration of health in the most efficient and safe manner, and with so many therapeutic options, it is impossible to know if EMDR is right for you without an initial evaluation at our clinic.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is EMDR?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy and is a clinically proven psychotherapy technique that helps patients who suffer from trauma, anxiety, panic, disturbing memories, PTSD, and many other emotional problems.
Curious if this unique therapy is right for you? Take our quiz to see if you’re a candidate and book a free consultation with an Innovative Medicine Patient Ambassador.
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