As the medical community has continued researching the effects of trauma, the word trauma itself has grown to encompass more than the stereotypical events it used to be associated with such as war, death, and natural disasters. EMDR therapy, an acronym for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing, is a particular type of therapy used in the treatment of trauma. 

There are many benefits to EMDR and it’s important before beginning the treatment process to speak to our team of admissions staff, who can better assess yours or your loved one’s situation and recommend the appropriate treatment plan. 

What is EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy, known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy, is an interactive psychotherapy technique used to help relieve psychological stress. It’s considered an extremely effective treatment for trauma and PTSD. During these specific therapy sessions, you will relive traumatic or triggering experiences in brief doses while the therapist directs your eye movements.

The process of recalling these distressing events whilst having your attention diverted, is what’s thought to make EMDR so successful; this aspect of the treatment is often less emotionally charged than having to recount the experience in its entirety with no other diversion. This process allows you to be exposed to the memories or thoughts without having a strong psychological, and sometimes even physical, response. As time goes on, this technique is believed to weaken the impact and the power that these memories or thoughts have over you. 

What are the benefits of EMDR therapy?

EMDR therapy is thought to benefit those suffering from PTSD and dealing with traumatic memories and thoughts. It’s particularly effective for those who struggle to open up and talk about their past experiences.

Although there is insufficient research to prove its effectiveness in these areas, EMDR therapy is also being used to treat:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Panic attacks
  • Eating disorders
  • Substance use disorder
  • Alcoholism 
  • Addiction

What are the Stages of EMDR Therapy?

EMDR therapy is typically broken down into various phases and requires you to attend multiple sessions. The treatment progress for EMDR may look something like this:

  • Finding an EMDR Therapist

The first stage will be to find a specialised EMDR therapist who you, or your loved one, feel you can connect with. Most therapists offer a free 15/20min consultation to see if it would be a good fit for both the client and therapist and to briefly discuss why the individual is seeking out EMDR therapy.

  • History and treatment planning

In order to decide which stage of the treatment process you’re at, your therapist will have to first review your history. This evaluation will involve you discussing your trauma and identifying potential traumatic memories that need to be addressed during sessions. 

  • Preparation

Your therapist will then show you different ways to cope with the emotional or psychological stress you’ve been experiencing. These techniques often involve breathwork and mindfulness may be used.

  • Assessment

During the third phase of EMDR treatment, your therapist will begin to target specific memories. This includes all the associated components such as the physical sensations that are stimulated when you concentrate on an event for each target memory.

  • Treatment

This is most likely the longest phase when it comes to EMDR therapy. Techniques specific to EMDR will be implemented by your therapist in order to treat your targeted memories/traumatic experiences. During these sessions, your therapist will ask you to focus on a negative thought, or memory, whilst asking you to do specific eye movements simultaneously. Depending on your case, the bilateral stimulation may also include taps or other movements in addition to eye movements. After these simulations, your therapist will ask you to let your mind go blank and notice the thoughts and feelings you’re having spontaneously. Once these thoughts have been identified, your therapist may ask you to refocus on that traumatic memory or move on to another. If you become distressed, your therapist is also there to help bring you back to the present. The process of the stimulations and confronting these difficult memories begin to change the way you relate to the traumatic events, thereby changing neural pathways in your brain. Over time, the distress over particular thoughts, images, or memories likely begin to fade.

  • Evaluation

Your therapist and yourself will, in this last phase, evaluate your progress and your treatment overall. 

Before Beginning EMDR Therapy

It is important to outline some of the side-effects that can occur during EMDR therapy. This particular type of therapy is intense and can cause heightened awareness which has long lasting effects outside of the therapeutic session. There is no quick fix when it comes to treating trauma. It is a process which can cause vivid and realistic dreams, lightheadedness, low-mood, and emotional instability. 

The beginning of EMDR therapy may be exceptionally triggering to people who, for the first time in their life, are beginning to deal with the traumatic events in their life. While the therapy will likely be effective in the long run, moving through the course of treatment may become stressful. 

Talk to your therapist about this when you start treatment so you’ll know how to cope if you experience these symptoms. EMDR therapy has proven to be effective in treating trauma and PTSD alongside other co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. Some people may prefer this treatment to prescription medications, which can have unexpected side-effects. However, others may find that EMDR therapy strengthens the effectiveness of their medications. If you or someone you love are thinking about beginning EMDR therapy, make an appointment with a licensed therapist who can assess your individual situation and make the right treatment recommendations. 

Addiction treatment at CATCH Recovery

In addition to EMDR therapy, CATCH Recovery offers a range of therapies, proven to help in the treatment of addiction. If you’re struggling with addiction, call our admissions team for a screening. This screening helps us determine which type of treatment is best suited to your needs. Our outpatient clinic is based in South West London, which is accessible from anywhere in the UK. If you need support but don’t live in the South East of England, you may benefit from the tele-health services we offer. If you require residential rehab, we also provide referrals to rehabs in the UK and Ireland. Call us today to discuss the different options that are available.