Which of the following combinations is the correct acronym for one of the most effective, widely-researched trauma therapy approaches?
b. EMDR (hint: Go with this!)
Time heals all, they say. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy is a rare, shining gem that magically defies time—and hands millions of clients first-class train tickets, placing them on a faster track to a future filled with health and healing.
EMDR Therapy was discovered and officially developed by renowned psychologist Francine Shapiro in 1987; it’s a fantastic, first-aid kit intervention designed to relieve clients who’ve been tormented by the relentless effects of past and present trauma. Trauma refers to extraordinarily disturbing life events that leave long-term, devastating negative effects on one’s quality of life and overall functioning (Shapiro, 2018). EMDR Therapy fits like a glove for clients who’ve experienced Big ‘T’ trauma—which often leads to a Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnosis—as well as those who’ve suffered through little ‘t’ trauma and accompanying symptoms (e.g. flashbacks). See the following lists for examples of Big ‘T’ and little ‘t’ trauma experiences:
What makes EMDR uniquely effective?
Well, for one, clients aren’t required to recite pages from their trauma narratives or simply recount what happened to them. EMDR clients also aren’t expected to complete post-session homework assignments. However, they are required to practice resourcing or apply coping skills designed to help them temporarily contain distressing thoughts or physical sensations connected to the trauma, for example, that may arise in-between sessions. Once the disturbances are contained, clients then immerse themselves in a calming pool of bliss by envisioning completely positive images linked to a real or imagined peaceful place.
EMDR Therapy is a thoughtful, comprehensive intervention, and it uses a three-pronged approach as an order of operations tailored to trauma treatment. The three-pronged approach, first, helps clients resolve past traumatic memories and, then, tackle corresponding present ‘triggers’—disturbing stimuli, such as people or places, that may remind them of the past traumatic experience and evoke automatic reactions. Finally, EMDR clinicians help clients imagine their future selves and rehearse alternative, healthier ways to respond to startling triggers:
During the intervention, trained and certified EMDR clinicians use fast-paced bilateral stimulation (BLS) in order to make the most of the brain’s natural, self-healing capacities. We offer clients three different BLS methods to choose from:
Specifically, clinicians instruct clients to move their eyes, listen to a tone in each ear (e.g. a ‘beep’ sound) via headphones, or physically tap their thighs using both hands—right-left, right-left, alternating back and forth like a pendulum. These BLS methods balance the left, logic-focused brain hemisphere and the right, emotion-focused brain hemisphere, and using them during EMDR sessions helps client reprocess information connected to their trauma (Parnell, 2008). BLS also stimulates dual attention so that clients can remain safely grounded in the present while they hold different aspects of the past traumatic memory (e.g. images) in their awareness during the intervention.
Feel free to view following video to learn more about EMDR:
If you’re interested in consuming additional details about EMDR Therapy or want to see whether or not this could be a best fit intervention for you, consider reaching out to an EMDR Trained or Certified therapist today. Also, don’t forget to return for Go with this (Part 2)!
Parnell, L. (2008). Tapping In: A Step-by-Step Guide to Activating your Healing Resources through Bilateral Stimulation. Sounds True, Inc.
Shapiro, F. (2018). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy: Basic Principles, Protocols, and Procedures (Third). The Guilford Press.
VEN EMDR. (2016, June 30). How EMDR works? look at this animation (English). Retrieved September 22, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hKrfH43srg8