The brain is extremely complex. Medical professionals still don’t fully understand how people process, store, and recall memories. Thus, there are many innovative techniques that counselors use to try and unlock different parts of the brain to overcome adverse mental health symptoms. One of these techniques is EMDR therapy.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It’s an innovative therapy technique developed by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. in 1987. The goal of EMDR is to help patients remember and reprocess traumatic incidents.
Often, it’s difficult to remember traumatic memories without feeling a great deal of emotional stress. These strong feelings can make it challenging for a person to discuss the memory, also making individual talk therapy or group therapy ineffective.
An EMDR therapy program utilizes evidence-based techniques to unlock painful memories and reprocess the emotions surrounding it. This way, when individuals remember the trauma, they experience healthier emotions rather than ones of anxiety or distress.
For example, someone who experienced abuse may feel disgust, fear, and sadness when they remember the event. With EMDR therapy, they can reprocess their experience and feel empowered as a survivor rather than feeling fear or anxiety.
Stages of an EMDR Therapy Program
EMDR therapy is an eight stage process. Each stage focuses on one of three time periods: the past, present, and future. While understanding and overcoming painful past experiences is the goal, EMDR therapy also works to help individuals manage situations they’re currently in as well as develop the skills they need to handle future events.
Stage 1: The therapist and patient work together to determine potential targets for the EMDR therapy. They do “history-taking” sessions where the patient goes over past experiences, particularly childhood memories. Multiple trauma victims will require longer sessions than single or adult-onset trauma.
Stage 2: During this phase, the therapist identifies a variety of techniques that the patient can use to handle emotional distress. EMDR therapy is solution-oriented, so the patient should be able to undergo effective change while maintaining emotional balance during and between sessions.
Stages 3-6: In these stages, the therapist and patient process the targets they identified in stage 1. The patient identifies three things related to these target events: vivid visuals, negative and positive beliefs about self, and related emotions or body sensations.
The therapist then asks the patient to focus on the image and emotions while participating in bilateral stimulation exercises. This could include eye movements, tapping, or tones depending on the patient. These stages are the core of an EMDR therapy program as they help the patient unlock and understand their memories.
Stage 7: In this closure stage, the therapist asks the patient to keep a log of any incidents, emotions, or ideas related to their EMDR therapy sessions. This stage also helps the client practice the coping mechanisms they learned in stage 2.
Stage 8: The therapist evaluates the patient’s progress and helps them decide their next steps.
EMDR Therapy for Addiction and Mental Health
EMDR is typically for people who have underlying trauma or mental health disorders. However, it can also help individuals who struggle with addiction, as well. Addiction rarely occurs without the accompaniment of a mental illness. So, for those with PTSD and addiction as co-occurring disorders, EMDR can help patients understand the root of their trauma and addiction so they can move forward.
Move Forward with Petersen Family Counseling
Trauma, addiction, and codependency all affect the family system. Without addressing these issues through comprehensive addiction therapy services, these conditions can threaten to destabilize and destroy a family. Parents lose authority, children lose guidance, and the entire family struggles to stay connected. Petersen Family Counseling offers professional family counseling services to prevent this grim outcome, including:
- Individual counseling
- Adolescent counseling
- Addiction treatment consulting
- Dual diagnosis
- Trauma therapy
- Codependency treatment
Don’t lose your family to addiction and trauma. Petersen Family Counseling offers effective solutions to help your family begin the healing journey. Call us today at 720.541.6289.