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EMDR And Trauma: A Deep Dive into Another Form Of Managing Trauma



I read a tweet on how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was not only a technique for managing trauma. A therapist came up to talk about how Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) was a great technique too, but nobody was talking about it.

The tweet got a lot of comments, but the one that struck me was a young lady’s comment. Where she explained how a childhood trauma was beginning to affect her and how her former therapist had been using cognitive behavioral therapy for her to no avail.

She had to change to another therapist who was a psychologist, and he introduced her to EMDR. She was able to manage her trauma triggers after two years of CBT with eye movement decentralization.

EMDR uses eye movement and talk therapy to help people remember a forgotten trauma. EMDR helps in recovering events that cannot come to light during therapy sessions. In other words, most mental health therapists combine CBT and EMDR, especially when it comes to trauma.

Coming across a video, I understood the dimension in which EMDR can be used. Individuals with many personality disorders and dissociative disorders might require eye movement desensitization and reprocessing techniques during therapy sessions.

Take, for example, a lady who is being kidnapped and raped consistently. She doesn’t have any hope of rescue. So instead of fighting back all the time during a rape episode. She accepts and removes herself from the presence of the rape event. She does not feel any pain; in her mind, she is in a happy place where she is free.

Whenever the rape occurs, she teleports her mind into this place she was created for herself, which is free from the pain she is to experience. She has developed a coping mechanism for this traumatic event.

When she gets rescued, CBT cannot help her bring back such memories. She might deny she was ever raped. This means that she blocked such an event continuously until she could not remember it again. In such cases, EMDR will be the best approach to helping individuals recall the traumatic event.

The Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy technique is done by a professional. This is because an unprofessional person might damage the brain of the trauma victim when trying to recall a very painful experience.

EMDR helps heal unprocessed trauma. A traumatic experience that one did not allow itself to feel the impact is what EMDR tries to heal when its adverse effects set in.

When Is EMDR Used?

Since EMDR is used to change behaviors, thoughts, and emotional patterns that arise from traumatic experiences, EMDR helps the mind and brain process trauma and heal naturally.

EMRD is used for people who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder. Mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, and depression lead to PTSD, and in some cases, CBT cannot help control the disorder.

Cases like rape and drug addiction sometimes require EMDR, especially when other techniques are not working. It is better to combine CBT techniques with EMDR in such cases.

Relationships, personality disorders, and behavioral issues can use EMDR. Issues like this stem from trauma, and depending on the severity of the trauma will determine how many sessions will be needed. Bullying, criticism, mood swings, and difficulty in social interactions are examples of relationship and behavioral issues.

Eating disorders, panic disorders, and substance abuse victims will benefit from EMDR techniques.

In the case of substance abuse, the victim will need to be sober for effective EMDR to happen. So, in other words, such individuals can go for detoxification or other substance abuse and addiction techniques before coming for an EMDR therapy session.

Benefits And Disadvantages Of EMDR

EMDR is not a common technique to help with mental health challenges. Even some therapists hardly use it and require professionals. But here are some benefits and disadvantages of EMDR:


Benefits of EMDR:

- Research shows that EMDR is very effective.

- EMDR shows results immediately.

- If CBT is not working over a long period of time, EMDR serves as an alternative form of treatment.

- There are no lots of activities during EMDR sessions.

- There is less stress, as you are not asked a lot of questions. You do not need to relieve bad events on your own; your therapist will help in such aspects.


Disadvantages of EMDR:

- It cannot be used and will not work on substance abuse victims.

- It will make you feel bad for relieving painful memories for a long time, if not done by a professional.

- EMDR works only for traumatic victims. Although some research says it can help in the area of physical health, but there is not much evidence to back it up.

Stages Involved During An EMDR Therapy Session

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing are not complete without more emphasis on the stages involved during a session. Most trained EMDR therapists are very conversant with these stages, as engagement in all stages will prove the effectiveness of EMDR.

Here are the eight stages involved:

  • Trauma history and information stage: this stage will help the EMDR-trained therapist know the necessary information that will help during the remaining stages. History and information could be medical reports and some questions as regards the traumatic experiences. This stage includes other treatment plans that will help.

  • Education about EMDR: the therapist is then saddled with the responsibility of telling the client what to expect during the session. Tools and techniques to manage overwhelming emotions are provided during this stage.

  • Assessment stage: clients will be asked to imagine a similar traumatic experience to what brought them to therapy sessions. They also get to talk about the negative and positive emotions they get from this image. This will help the therapist understand the thoughts and emotional patterns of the client.

  • Desensitization and reprocessing stage: this is where the use of an instrument comes in to see the reaction and eye movement of the client as the therapist helps to identify more negative images. This stage is quite hard to process for the client. But the therapist is trained to know when to stop at such a stage.

  • Installation of positive imagination: after the uncomfortable feeling comes to the installation of positive images and feelings. Positively identified emotions from stage three can be played here.

  • Body somatic scan stage: this stage includes the therapist checking if the clients had developed some negative symptoms from the concluded stage 4. This stage will need lots of sessions to help the therapist know how the former stages have affected the clients.

  • Stabilization stage: during sessions for this stage, the EMDR-trained therapist will work closely with the clients on healthy coping techniques that will help them during negative triggers.

  • Continuous care stage: this session includes a review of all the stages and further treatment that will serve as support for the traumatic client.

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