Here, at Inner Source Psychotherapy, one of Dr. Beth Firestein’s individual trauma treatment options is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Although EMDR has been used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — along with a host of other conditions — since the 1980s, little is understood about it by the general public. Here, we would like to take some time to explain what EMDR is and how it can help you.
Traumatic life events can have a long-lasting effect on a person’s mental health. EMDR is a process used to remove the block caused by the traumatic event(s) and help allow for closure so the patient can make peace and move past the event. Patients and therapists prefer EMDR as a treatment option because it non-invasive and doesn’t require medication.
How Does it Work?
When most people hear the term post-traumatic stress disorder, it is commonly associated with victims of war and military personnel, however, trauma is a scale that is different for each person. Post-traumatic stress refers to a response to a traumatic event that interferes with everyday life. For some that may mean witnessing a horrific car accident has left them terrified of riding in cars and unable to sleep. For a victim of assault, it may mean that they are fearful of leaving their home or interacting with people. In some cases, the responses may not even be drastic enough that anyone else notices — sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, avoiding places, things, sounds, or smells that trigger memories.
EMDR is an eight-part treatment series that helps patients to “process” the memory or event, to allow them to deal with it, find a resolution, and learn to live after it. The eight parts are referred to as phases, because the length may vary for patients. In as little as eight sessions, a patient can process a traumatic event, but for significant traumas or trauma that happened in the distant past and has become a part of the patient’s character, it may take many months.
Phase one: History-taking This is the history taking phase. The therapist will get a full background on the traumatic event and the extent to which the memories disrupt the patient’s life. A full assessment is conducted and treatment is planned. The patient and therapist will work together to make goals for the patient based on current triggers and future goals.
Phase two: Preparation Preparing the patient includes fully explaining the procedure and what each phase will look like. Because the treatment requires the patient to focus on the most disturbing event of their lives, the therapist will also ensure that the patient has support resources and will conduct safe place exercises. The patient will practice these safe place exercises at the end of each session to “put everything back in place” and allow the patient to resume life after leaving the office.
Phase three: Assessment The third phase uses a scale of Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD) to evaluate changes in emotion and cognition throughout the therapy. The targeted memory is activated and assessed based on image, cognition, affect, and body sensation.
Phase four- seven: Processing During the next few phases, this is where the work is done. The patient focuses on the memory while engaging in eye movements or some other form of bilateral stimulation (BLS), led by the therapist. The eye movement or another form of bilateral stimulation (BLS) helps the brain keep focus when mental roadblocks emerge. This helps the patient to see the memory more clearly and unlocks related memories that were blocked. Any new thoughts that emerge are the focus of the next session. This process continues until the patient reports that the memory is no longer distressing — desensitization through exposure.
Phase five: Evaluation The last phase may be revisited as need. It is the evaluation or reevaluation phase. The patient and the therapist make new goals and focus on any new thoughts or memories that may have emerged.
What Can EMDR Treat?
EMDR is known for its success in treating PTSD related to death, fire, car accident, assault, rape, robbery, natural disaster, illness, childhood abuse, witness to violence, and abuse. EMDR can treat many other conditions as well. Depression, anxiety, and panic disorders have seen improvements when EMDR is used in conjunction with other traditional therapies. Emotional and behavioral conditions such as phobias, low self-esteem, anger problems, and sleep issues have all been successfully treated with EMDR.
If a traumatic event is negatively affecting your life or disrupting your relationships, EMDR may be a treatment option for you. Discuss your treatment options with your therapist. If you are looking for a counselor in Loveland to help you through your healing journey, call the office of Dr. Beth Firestein. Dr. Firestein has extensive knowledge and experience in working with victims of trauma and is certified to practice EMDR.