When people first hear about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, they are often skeptical about how this particular therapeutic model can help people who suffer with trauma. However, over the years millions have received tremendous relief from this therapy. EMDR is useful in non-combat trauma, and you may want to understand the various types of trauma treated by EMDR, the concepts of the therapy and get more information about a typical series of sessions.
Types of Trauma
When people think about traumatic events, they often think about combat being the primary cause. Men and women are often removed from familiar surroundings, required to adjust to different climate and cultural changes and endure constant uncertainty. In addition, they may experience or perform horrific acts. Thus, it is understandable that combat can result in trauma. However, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in their post, Types of Trauma and Violence, there are many other circumstances that can cause a person to experience trauma including the following:
- Sexual abuse or assault includes unwanted or coercive sexual contact, exposure to age-inappropriate sexual material or environments, and sexual exploitation.
- Physical abuse or assault is the actual or attempted infliction of physical pain (with or without the use of an object or weapon) including the use of severe corporeal punishment.
- Emotional abuse and psychological maltreatment are considered acts of commission against an individual that may include verbal abuse, emotional abuse and excessive demands or expectations.
- Neglect includes the failure to provide an individual with basic needs such as food, clothing or shelter. It can also include exposing someone to dangerous environments, abandoning a person or expelling them from home.
- Unexpected events include a serious accident, illness or medical procedure.
- Victim or witness to domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person.
- Victim or witness to community violence includes gang-related violence, interracial violence or police and citizen altercations.
- School violence may include school shootings, bullying, interpersonal violence among classmates and student suicide.
- Natural disasters include tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, mudslides or drought.
- Manmade disasters include mass shootings, chemical spills or terrorist attacks.
- Traumatic grief and/or separation may include the death of a parent, primary caretaker, or sibling; abrupt and/or unexpected, accidental, or premature death or homicide of a close friend, family member, or other close relative; abrupt, unexplained and/or indefinite separation from a parent, primary caretaker, or sibling due to uncontrollable circumstances.
There are numerous circumstances that can cause trauma that require treatment. EMDR has proven to be effective in treating trauma apart from drugs like rohypnol.
Part of the reason that EMDR is often misunderstood is because it is difficult to grasp exactly why it does work. The EMDR International Association provides a great deal of information about this therapy. The post “How Does EMDR Work?” explains some concepts.
What is known is that when a person is very upset, his brain cannot process information as it does ordinarily. A traumatic event may become frozen in his mind and contains the associated images, sounds, smells and feelings. This makes it difficult for the person to feel safe in his world, and he experiences symptoms of trauma. Through EMDR, normal information processing is resumed in the mind allowing the person to see the disturbing material but in a new and less distressing way.
Typical EMDR Sessions
EMDR therapy doesn’t happen in one or two sessions. There is an 8-phase structured protocol that helps a person work through his or her trauma. The EMDR network describes in their post, “A Brief Description of EMDR Therapy,” the eight phases including the following:
- The history and treatment planning phase typically takes 1–2 sessions and includes a thorough history of the client and ends up with the development of a treatment plan.
- In the preparation phase, which usually takes 1–4 sessions, the clinician explains the theory of EMDR, how it is done, and what the person can expect during and after treatment. In this phase, you also learn a variety of relaxation techniques for calming yourself in the face of any emotional disturbance that may arise during or after a session.
- In the assessment phase, you will select a specific picture or scene from the target event that best represents the memory, and you will also choose a statement that expresses a negative self-belief associated with the event.
- During the reprocessing phase, you are introduced to a variety of stimuli, which may include eye movements, taps or tones to see which of these strategies you are most receptive.
- During desensitization, you go through the stimuli until you start feeling less conflicted and in a better position to resolve your trauma over the event.
- The installation phase concentrates on increasing the strength of the positive beliefs that replaced the original negative beliefs.
- The body scan phase allows a person to revisit their mind and body to determine if there are any residual trauma feelings.
- The closure session ensures that the person leaves at the end of each session feeling better than at the beginning.
- Moving through this cycle, the last phase is reevaluation, which allows you to determine the success of the treatment and to minimize the potential for a reoccurrence.
The goal is to replace the beliefs and feelings associated with the trauma with more positive, life affirming beliefs and feelings.
Get Help Learning About EMDR
To learn more about EMDR and how to cope with trauma without the use of drugs like rohypnol, please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have about EMDR.