What is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR is used to treat the strong negative feelings and distress that are linked to the memory of a traumatic event. This therapy aims to replace these negative feelings with more neutral or positive feelings. It focuses more on the emotions and symptoms related to the memory and less on the troubling event itself.
EMDR is based on the idea that the mind and body are connected. It uses eye movements to help reprocess memories and take away the negative connection. A therapist moves a finger quickly from side to side while you follow with your eyes. At the same time, the therapist asks you to briefly concentrate on a disturbing memory. Some therapists use tapping motions or sounds on your left and right (repeatedly) instead of finger movements.
It is thought that when your brain learns to connect a movement to a memory, it helps to release emotional experiences that are "trapped" in the nervous system.
EMDR uses an eight-step approach to deal with past, present, and future aspects of disturbing memories. A goal is to learn skills to help handle emotional distress more positively in the future.
What types of challenges are best suited for EMDR Therapy?
EMDR is used for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in both children and youth. It has also been used to successfully treat a wide variety of mental health challenges and disorders:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Eating Disorders
- Substance use challenges
- Somatic symptoms
It can be adapted in playful and creative ways to fit a child's age and ability to cope with strong negative emotions.
How long will it take?
The number of sessions will depend on the specific trauma and how it is processed. It usually takes 3-4 sessions to work through a single trauma. More sessions may be needed for more complex trauma. Some people feel improvement after one session that lasts 60 to 90 minutes. EMDR can be used on its own or with regular talk therapy.