What Is EMDR Therapy And How Does It Work? | Highland Springs Clinic
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Posted on: December 16, 2019 | Dr. Todd Thatcher

A violent or frightening experience can have an extremely negative impact on the human mind with debilitating effects that can last a lifetime. PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is often developed as a result of these experiences. While PTSD is most commonly associated with military personnel, it can happen to anyone who experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a violent attack or natural disaster. These occurrences can result in extremely vivid memories, as well as disturbing thoughts and reactions that can lead to trouble functioning in everyday life.

Even with other forms of regular treatment, including individual and group therapy or a medication regimen, PTSD and trauma can lead to a host of difficult side effects. Depression and anxiety are some of the most common, along with panic attacks and difficulty sleeping. Some patients suffer from realistic nightmares and hallucinations. Many individuals experience an extreme fluctuation of emotions, including despair, certain phobias, and even rage. Patients may also develop hyperarousal, which can worsen other symptoms and lead to paranoia. For those who have experienced some type of trauma or suffer from PTSD, EMDR therapy may be an incredibly effective solution for these issues.

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What Are The Benefits of EMDR?

EMDR or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a special type of psychotherapy developed in the late 1980s by Dr. Francine Shapiro. During the treatment process, the patient is instructed to direct their eye movements in a specific manner while recalling a targeted memory or thought from their traumatic experience. This diversion of the attention makes the process of remembering a negative experience less and less upsetting over time. Eventually, the patient should be able to recall or discuss the event without having a response that results in a debilitating reaction. Research has shown that EMDR therapy is incredibly effective for those who have lived through trauma or suffer from PTSD. Many experience immediate benefits, and most report no relapses in symptoms months after treatment has ended.

EMDR Treatment Phases/Plan

While every case is unique, most EMDR treatment plans involve eight separate phases that are covered over an average of 12 sessions. During the first phase, the therapist will review the patient’s history and evaluate their progress with their current treatment plan. During the next phase, coping techniques will be discussed and applied to help the patient on their journey towards recovery. In phase three, the therapist will determine which memories or thoughts should be targeted during EMDR therapy in Utah and observe the various responses the patient may exhibit while recalling each one.

The actual treatment process occurs during phases four through seven when the therapist instructs the patient to perform specific eye movements while fixating on a particular traumatic memory. If the patient becomes extremely distressed during the process, the therapist will help guide them to a calm, safe mental state before moving forward with treatment. After each targeted exercise is complete, the therapist will have the patient report on their resulting thoughts and feelings. During phase eight, both the patient and the therapist will evaluate the progress made during EMDR therapy in order to take the next step towards a successful recovery.

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EMDR Therapy for PTSD

Several studies have shown that Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is incredibly effective for those suffering from PTSD, with some showing as much as a 77% success rate. Due to its high number of positive results, it has become one of the most highly recommended treatment options for former military members by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Those suffering from PTSD often experience a long-term reduction or relief from a variety of negative side effects through EMDR therapy in Utah, including nightmares, anxiety, hallucinations, and depression.

EMDR Therapy for Trauma

While trauma and PTSD are closely connected, it is important to note the difference between the two. Trauma is a single, usually recent occurrence, while PTSD is a long-term side effect from a singular or series of traumatic events. When utilized promptly after a trauma, EMDR therapy could help prevent the development of PTSD. This treatment plan can be extremely effective for patients who have suffered a recent trauma.

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What to Know Before Starting EMDR

It’s important for individuals with PTSD or past trauma experiences to go into EMDR therapy with an understanding of what the treatment requires and entails. Patients will be instructed to revisit their trauma multiple times during treatment. However, this should always occur under careful supervision and with plenty of support and coping mechanisms in place. Still, the process can be mentally and emotionally stressful on patients and can trigger negative responses in the early stages of treatment. The intense mental focus that occurs during therapy may linger for a while after a session has ended. This may cause the patient to feel faint or experience lucid dreams. While these side effects may be challenging at times, they are typically more favorable than those caused by medicinal treatment. Also, EMDR therapy typically results in a better outcome with longer-lasting relief.

While there are many treatment options for those struggling from trauma or PTSD, with EMDR therapy in Utah, we can achieve significant, positive results for many patients. If you or someone you know suffers from symptoms as a result of a traumatic experience, EMDR therapy may be a very effective solution. Talk to a professional to see if you would be a good candidate for this type of approach. With time and intentional treatment under a trained expert, you could be on the road to a more normal life through EMDR therapy.

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