For years, cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, has been the go-to for helping people experiencing repressed trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, pain, personality disorders, and more. In CBT at Thriveworks Portage, the therapist helps the client evaluate their negative beliefs and behaviors and purposefully make changes to those beliefs and behaviors, while also managing their reactions to negative beliefs and behaviors as they occur. The primary difference between EDMR and CBT is that EMDR does not include detailed descriptions of the traumatic events, nor does it involve regular homework or extended exposure to events that cause behavioral-emotional reactions stemming from the trauma.
But Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing has similar goals to CBT—to help the client shift their thoughts from painful ones to calming, positive thoughts and beliefs. We do this in a deceptively simple way—by having the client shift their gaze back and forth while recalling the distressing events. Alternatively, we may tap or use a sound to accomplish the same goals. After a time, we will help you shift your thoughts to calming ones that can positively reinforce the mental state you’d like to experience. Each session lasts around 60-90 minutes.
Does that sound a little odd? Believe it or not, studies show that by recalling stressful events first and then shifting to calming thoughts while connecting a movement—such as shifting the gaze or tapping—can alter the way the brain processes those stressful thoughts.
EMDR has eight phases:
1. Gathering the client history and planning treatment
This includes discussing the specific problem that brought the client in as well as the present situations that cause distress.
During this phase, the client will be prepared for what will occur during each session, but they will also be taught relaxation techniques they can begin to use immediately.
The therapist and client work together during this phase to select the representative memory to be targeted, as well as the negative belief stemming from that memory. Then, they will pick an appropriate replacement belief. At various points during therapy, the client will be asked to rank on a scale of 1-10 how true the replacement belief feels. It is the gradually increasing rank of that statement that helps evaluate whether the therapy is working.
During this phase, the targeted memory as well as tangential memories and feelings are addressed as they arise.
The focus of this phase is to fully cement the positive belief chosen in the Assessment phase.
6. Body Scan
Though at this point the patient may be feeling much better, it is now that the therapist will check in to determine whether the original event can be discussed without the client experiencing any tension in the body. If there is tension, it will be addressed.
At the end of each session, the therapist will walk the client through relaxation techniques that ensure the client leaves feeling better than when they came in.
At the beginning of each session, the therapist and client will visit briefly in an effort to determine whether the results seen so far have been maintained. From here, they can evaluate the appropriateness of the treatment and how it should proceed.
If you’re struggling with anxiety, pain, PTSD, substance abuse, or another challenge, consider EMDR therapy. Give Thriveworks Portage a call—we will evaluate you and your situation and help you determine if EMDR or another therapy will suit your needs.