EMDR Therapy | Counseling | Therapy

EMDR Therapy

EMDR Therapy In Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, And Virginia

What Is EMDR Therapy?

EMDR is an acronym that stands for Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing. EMDR therapy was developed by Dr. Francine Shapiro in 1987. She found that distressing thoughts that she was having were disappearing and becoming less negatively charged as she moved her eyes back and forth. After this discovery, she began researching and creating what is known as EMDR therapy. EMDR therapy is often used to help process and overcome traumatic events. It can be used with both children and adults and for both big and small traumatic events. For example, a large traumatic event would be something like a sexual assault or an accident where you almost died that continues to cause distress. A small traumatic event could be something like an embarrassing or humiliating situation at work that still is troubling to you so much that you struggle in similar work situations. Several randomized studies have demonstrated support for the use of EMDR therapy for dealing with traumatic situations for both children and adults. One of the advantages of EMDR Therapy over other types of talk therapy for trauma is that traumatic memories can be resolved much quicker and EMDR therapy does not require the details of the traumatic event to be discussed with the therapist.

Jennifer Foust, Ph.D., M.S., LPC, ACS (Clinical Director)

Jennifer Foust, PhD, MS, LPC, MS, LPC, PHD (She / Her / Hers)

Clinical Director

Pennsylvania , New Jersey , Georgia , Florida , Virginia , Connecticut


More about Jennifer Foust, PhD, MS, LPC, MS, LPC, PHD

What Types Of Problems Does EMDR Therapy Address? (EMDR Therapy In Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, And Virginia)

When people hear about EMDR therapy, it is often in relation to addressing trauma. EMDR therapy is a wonderful approach for addressing single episode trauma and complex trauma. EMDR therapy is also a good approach for a variety of other mental health issues as well. EMDR can help address traumatic reactions to different types of experiences. For example, EMDR can be useful to help with a memory related to finding a loved one who has died or the experience of being present when a loved one has died. EMDR therapy is also an effective tool with anxiety issues. For example, different types of phobias respond well to EMDR intervention. In this situation, memories regarding how the phobia developed are processed and then a future scenario is addressed. Research on EMDR therapy has shown that it is also helpful with other mental health concerns including mood disorders, OCD, grief, addictions, pain concerns, and medical concerns such as cancer treatment.

How Does EMDR Therapy Work? (EMDR Therapy In Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida And Virginia)

EMDR therapy is a well researched and effective treatment despite how simple it may sound. EMDR therapy understands traumatic memories as getting “stuck” or “locked” in the brain with all the original components of the memory including thoughts, feelings, and sensations ( such as body sensations and sensory information). The memories are essentially “unprocessed” and EMDR therapy helps a person to experience the memories and begin to process them. The use of bilateral stimulation, meaning eye movements, tones, or tapping, while holding the memory and all the sensations attached to it in your mind is the mechanism for processing the memory. Processing the memory then leads to storage of the memory as a past experience where you are still able to remember it, but the vividness and intensity are no longer experienced. In effect, the memory becomes neutralized. The triggers that are associated with the memory are also processed and become neutralized. Sometimes there are several memories that lead to different triggers and all of the associated memories need to go through processing. Processing memories also includes working with the negative thoughts about yourself with regard to the memories and then linking a positive adaptive thought to the memories.

EMDR therapy doesn’t just address the past memories. It also addresses present situations that are triggered by these past memories and addresses managing future situations. In EMDR therapy, you will go through a history taking process to understand what symptoms are currently distressing and the associated memories that are attached to those distressing symptoms. If you are not sure of the memories that may be associated, you will be guided to discuss your symptoms and help to uncover the associated memories. Once past memories are addressed and processed, EMDR therapy will then move to processing the related present situation and triggers. Sometimes, the distress of the related present situation and triggers are greatly reduced once the past memories are processed and processing of present situations and triggers happens very quickly. When the present situations and triggers are processed and no longer distressing, preparing for the future will be addressed. This part of EMDR therapy involves developing adaptive responses to managing the situation in the future by imagining the future scenario and responding to it effectively. You also address a challenge situation for the scenario. As stated above, while processing past memories often results in a decrease of distress with present triggers and present situations, processing the present triggers and situations and working through a future scenario provides further treatment to reduce distress and create confidence in dealing with the situations in the future.

EMDR therapy uses an eight phase model. The first phase is the history taking and treatment planning phase. This phase is learning about the presenting issues, what past memories are related to them and deciding the memories to target with processing. The second phase is the preparation and stabilization phase. This phase prepares the person for addressing traumatic memories and helps to develop resources to manage the distress of the memories in order to process them. It is important for memory processing to be in the window of tolerance, a concept developed by Dr. Dan Siegel. Your window of tolerance is an ability to manage distress that neither becomes too overwhelming resulting in feelings of panic, rage, etc. or too underwhelming resulting in feelings of depression, disconnect, numbness, etc. This phase helps to develop skills to keep processing within the window of tolerance. Processing outside of the window of tolerance is not effective.

Phase three involves activating the target memory for processing. A memory is identified along with a negative thought about yourself that is associated with the memory. In addition to the negative thought, your emotions about the experience and how you feel the emotion in your body is also identified. You are also asked to identify a positive thought that you would like to believe about yourself instead and how true you currently feel that positive thought is. Finally, you are asked to rate how distressing the experience currently feels on a scale of 1-10. After these questions are completed, you are ready for processing using bilateral stimulation.

Phase four is the processing phase. In between sets of bilateral stimulation, you are asked to identify what you are noticing. This processing phase will continue until you rate the situation as neutral or a 0 on the 0-10 scale, or the session is over. If the memory processing is not complete during a session, the processing will end and the processing will be closed out. Techniques are used to help manage any distress that exists when processing is not completed in a session. Phase 5 happens once a memory is effectively processed. Phase 5 involves connecting a positive thought that you would like to believe about yourself with the processed memory. The memory is neutralized and a positive thought of confidence and adaptation is now connected to it using bilateral stimulation. This phase is complete when the positive thought is believed to be true. Phase 6 is a body scan. Trauma can often show up as sensations in the body. The purpose of the body scan is to think about the memory to see if any lingering sensations show up. If there are lingering sensations, bilateral stimulation is used while focusing on that body sensation. Once there are no lingering sensations identified, this phase is complete and the processing of the memory is considered completed.

Phase seven is used to wrap up a session when a memory is not completed or to wrap up a completed memory. When a memory is completed and there is more time in the session, the next target memory is prepared for processing or treatment moves onto present triggers and situations if all past memories have been addressed. The final phase eight is used at the beginning of a new session of EMDR therapy once processing has been initiated. The purpose of phase eight is to evaluate experiences that have occurred since the last session that are related to the memory being processed or to the presenting issue. Often processing continues after an EMDR therapy session in the form of dreams, new insights, memories, etc. and it is important to identify what those are. After all of the past memories are processed and complete, the present triggers are processed. After the past triggers are processed, the future scenarios are addressed using bilateral stimulation to process any distress that occurs while imagining those future scenarios.

Many people are intrigued by EMDR therapy and have questions about how it can work for them. At The Center for Growth, we are happy to speak with you about the therapy and how it may be helpful for you. If you would like to speak with a therapist or schedule an appointment for EMDR Therapy, please contact Dr. Jennifer Foust at 267-262-8515.

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