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Albert Afanasyev
Albert Afanasyev

How Rapid Eye Movement Therapy Has Helped PTSD Patients



EMDR therapy combines different elements to maximize treatment effects. A full description of the theory, sequence of treatment, and research on protocols and active mechanisms can be found in F. Shapiro (2001) Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing: Basic principles, protocols and procedures (2nd edition) New York: Guilford Press.




How Rapid Eye Movement Therapy Has Helped PTSD Patients


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Phase 2: During the second phase of treatment, the therapist ensures that the client has several different ways of handling emotional distress. The therapist may teach the client a variety of imagery and stress reduction techniques the client can use during and between sessions. A goal of EMDR therapy is to produce rapid and effective change while the client maintains equilibrium during and between sessions.


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a fairly new, nontraditional type of psychotherapy. It's growing in popularity, particularly for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD often occurs after experiences such as military combat, physical assault, rape, or car accidents.


At first glance, EMDR appears to approach psychological issues in an unusual way. It does not rely on talk therapy or medications. Instead, EMDR uses a patient's own rapid, rhythmic eye movements. These eye movements dampen the power of emotionally charged memories of past traumatic events.


Even the most enthusiastic supporters of EMDR have not agreed on how the therapy works. At this point, only theories exist. By inducing the recall of distressing events and diverting attention from their emotional consequences, EMDR in some respects borrows basic principles used in prolonged exposure therapy, the gold standard behavioral psychotherapeutic treatment of PTSD. Some therapists believe that EMDR reduces anxiety. This allows patients to better take control of their upsetting thoughts. Others simply say that we don't yet understand how EMDR works. According to the APA guidelines, EMDR needs further study to more fully understand it.


Few PTSD treatment modalities have received as much attention as rapid eye movement therapy. While the name of the treatment may sound obscure, rapid eye movement therapy, also known as EMDR, has been verified by numerous research studies and professional organizations as a treatment that helps PTSD patients.


Rapid eye movement therapy mimics the brain activity that occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is the time of rest when an individual processes thoughts, memories and emotions from the day. EMDR therapy allows the patient to process painful memories that cause PTSD in a safe, controlled environment. By the end of a course of EMDR therapy, most patients are able to go from a state of being horrified by their traumatic memories to a place of peace and acceptance. For example, a military veteran who witnessed horrific and life-threatening events while serving overseas may finish a course of EMDR therapy and feel grateful that he or she survived the event and be able to put the experience in the past. Many people who successfully complete EMDR therapy no longer have disturbing thoughts, graphic dreams, or flashbacks of their traumatic event. Research continues to show that EMDR is a beneficial treatment for people suffering from PTSD and other trauma disorders such as rape trauma syndrome. Sources EMDR Institute, Inc. (2017). What is EMDR? -is-emdr/ Shapiro, F. (2014). The Role of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy in Medicine: Addressing the Psychological and Physical Symptoms Stemming from Adverse Life Experiences. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (2016). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) for PTSD. -med/emdr-for-ptsd.asp


A structured therapy that encourages the patient to briefly focus on the trauma memory while simultaneously experiencing bilateral stimulation (typically eye movements), which is associated with a reduction in the vividness and emotion associated with the trauma memories.


EMDR therapy can also be used to help support family members dealing with the death of a loved one. The results of both prolonged debilitation and sudden death can involve trauma symptoms that include distressing intrusive images of the suffering patient. The family member is often unable to retrieve positive memories of the deceased, which further exacerbates and complicates the grieving process.59 As indicated in a nonrandomized multisite study,60 EMDR therapy reduced symptoms significantly more rapidly than the CBT on behavioral measures and on 4 of 5 psychosocial measures. EMDR was more efficient, inducing change at an earlier stage and requiring fewer sessions (6.2 vs 10.7 sessions). Positive recall of the deceased was significantly greater (twice the frequency) posttreatment with EMDR.


Dr. Bethany Juby is a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in eating disorder recovery and stress management. She founded Juby Clinical Services, LLC, to provide psychotherapy to adults via teletherapy utilizing acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). She is licensed to provide teletherapy in 22 states, including Illinois and Arizona, through the Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact (PSYPACT).


A 2021 study surveyed 33 EMDR therapists who gave data on 93 adult, children, and young adult therapy clients receiving EMDR online. According to the results, EMDR provided over the internet still helped relieve mental health symptoms.


EMDR therapy is a psychotherapy approach to trauma treatment that uses a series of bilateral stimulation, most common being eye movements, during regular therapy sessions. There are eight phases total in the EMDR process which consist of history, preparation, assessment, desensitization, installation, body scan, closure, and reevaluation (Rousseau, 2021). During the history phase, they discuss both past and present concerns and what they want in the future. They do this to identify and target the traumatic events that they need to process. In the preparation phase, the therapist and client identify a safe place for when the client experiences distress and they have to want to regain self control and a sense of stability (Rousseau, 2021). In the assessment phase, the therapist has the client start to recall the traumatic events while also identifying the negative views and beliefs they have about themselves because of the traumatic event. In the desensitization phase, the clients are now exposed to a series of eye movements or even clicks while they recall the traumatic events. This is supposed to help them reprocess the events (Rousseau, 2021). In the Installation phase they continue the same eye movement mixed in with regular therapy, but this time they are getting the client to focus on the positive beliefs about themselves in relation to the events. After this phase, they conduct a body scan to evaluate if the clients progress and to see if they need more sessions. As for the closure and reevaluation phases, these phases are conducted in every session. Revaluation phase/ process is done in the beginning of every session to see if the client needs to complete a desensitization or installation phase and closure phase/ process is completed at the end of each session so that they can review and it allows the clients gain a sense of safety/ control before leaving the session (Rousseau, 2021).


Though EMDR is commonly used for PTSD patients, EMDR has also been proven to work for many other stress disorders. In an article where they analyzed seven different studies that used EMDR therapy with cancer patients, 140 patients in total, they found that EMDR had lowered the stress levels of the patients and improved their overall quality of life (Portigliatti Pomeri, La Salvia,Carletto, Oliva, & Ostacoli., 2020). It was stated that this occurred due to the EMDR therapy alleviating the psychological stress that the patients were experiencing (Portigliatti Pomeri, La Salvia,Carletto, Oliva, & Ostacoli., 2020).


A 2015 review found that EMDR therapy for PTSD patients was more beneficial compared to other types of therapy in 7 out of 10 studies that were included. (8) In the majority of the studies, PTSD sufferers had a more significant reduction in distress and stress related symptoms (such as having less sweat on their skin) following EMDR therapy compared to other therapy approaches like CBT. The same review found that 12 randomized studies involving rapid eye movement therapy found that patients experienced a rapid decrease in negative emotions and/or vividness of disturbing images, and a variety of other positive memory effects. The use of rapid eye movements for PTSD has also been shown to be more helpful than other external stimuli such as beeping noises.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a form of psychotherapy designed to treat psychological trauma. It was first developed in 1987 by psychologist Francine Shapiro for the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She noticed a link between eye movements and the stored memories of traumatic events, and went on to study the theory extensively.


EMDR therapy differs from other forms of talk therapy in that it focuses on reprocessing the storage of traumatic memories in the brain, thus significantly reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety as a result. Bilateral stimulation, such as rapid eye movements or buzzing tappers, are a major component to the treatment and reprocessing of memories. The idea is that this form of therapy allows people to heal from emotional distress from traumatic events that were not fully processed.


However, because this technique requires recalling a disturbing moment in time, it can be triggering as patients bring up those memories. EMDR may also trigger vivid dreams and can be emotionally stressful. These side effects will typically dwindle as the therapy continues.


Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a psychotherapy that uses rhythmic left-right (bilateral) stimulation to help people recover from trauma or other distressing life experiences. 350c69d7ab


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