Sometimes, after going through a traumatic experience, the memories of that experience can feel like they are stuck in your mind. Any experience that seems to remind us of the traumatic moment can bring those memories back up, even to the point that they feel like they are happening all over again.
Our brains want to process these memories. But because these memories are challenging, you do not want to have to think of them over and over again until they are finally processed and you can put them aside.
One alternative is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, or EMDR, therapy. This therapy is designed to help you speed up the processing of traumatic experiences, help you get bad memories unstuck, and start the process of moving on. It does this by going through an 8-step process with each of your traumatic memories.
The EMDR Therapy Process
During EMDR therapy, you work closely with your therapist to identify memories that cause you distress and are prompting you to hold on to negative beliefs about yourself. You will then work to reprocess these memories and assign them healthier, more positive beliefs, which will eventually allow you to begin to move past those negative experiences.
The process will be adapted to your specific symptoms and traumas as you and your therapist work together to deliver on your needs, but in general, will follow these phases:
- Phase One: History Taking and Planning – The first step is to figure out if EMDR is right for you. Your therapist will discuss your past experiences and current symptoms to see if there is a trauma connection. From there, your therapist can get a complete picture of you and make a plan for moving forward with treatment.
- Phase Two: Preparation – Your therapist will answer any questions you may have about the process before you begin, as well as build your comfort in working with each other for greater success in treatment.
- Phase Three: Assessment – During this stage, you and your therapist will identify your target, which is the memory you will be working to process. You will develop a full picture of the memory itself and the thoughts and emotions tied to it. You will also choose a positive thought that you want to tie to this memory in the future.
- Phase Four: Desensitization – Your therapist will use dual attention by having you focus on the memory and something else in your environment to reduce the discomfort you feel as you think about this memory.
- Phase Five: Installation – Once you are able to think about memory without upset, you can begin to associate it with your new positive thought process. You will do this by focusing on both the thought and the memory at the same time.
- Phase Six: Body Scan – When you believe the new positive thought, you will do a mental scan over your body to see if any negative feelings remain and do more processing to reduce those.
- Phase Seven: Closure – Your therapist will help you come out of your processing space back into the present and process any remaining emotions.
- Phase Eight: Reevaluation – Together, you will look at the memories that you have processed to be sure that they are fully processed and you completely believe your new positive interpretations or determine if you need to return to the target memory.
You and your therapist will go through these steps for all of your different target memories until all of the previous thoughts and traumas that you have been struggling with feel completely resolved.
Right Path Counseling uses EMDR as one of the treatment methods in our Jericho counseling services. We work with adults and teens who are dealing with trauma, helping with the processing until traumatic events seem not so overwhelming. We use EMDR to help patients who are suffering from PTSD, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety, previous abuse, or trauma.
Whatever challenges you are facing, Right Path Counseling can help. Contact us to learn more about EMDR and the other types of therapy we offer.