What is EMDR? (The Pros and Cons)
Nowadays, there are so many therapy options to choose from.
With so many choices, you’re bound to find a type of therapy that works well for you.
But choosing what types of therapy you want to explore can be overwhelming - especially if you’re already struggling with your mental health.
Here at KMA Therapy, we’re here to make all steps of the therapy process easier for you. For over 14 years, we’ve helped our clients find their ideal types of therapy and their best-fit therapists.
After reading this article, you’ll know what EMDR therapy is, how it works, and its pros, cons, and alternatives.
What is EMDR Therapy?
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a type of therapy where you focus on a traumatic memory while experiencing bilateral stimulation (like moving your eyes from side to side or tapping alternating shoulders.)
While it was originally created to treat PTSD, it’s now used for a wide range of mental health issues.
EMDR can help with symptoms related to:
- Chronic pain
- Anxiety and depression
- Body image and eating disorders
What Happens During EMDR?
During EMDR, your therapist will guide you through eight steps, which were created to smoothly guide the process.
The 8 steps of EMDR therapy are:
- History taking
- Client preparation
- Body scan
- Re-evaluation of treatment
During the history taking step, your therapist will learn about your history, including what brings you to therapy and what might be causing your symptoms. This will help your therapist decide what area of your life to focus on first.
Next, your therapist will prepare you for EMDR by making sure you know what to expect, and giving you tools to talk about and move through your emotions.
The assessment phase will get more specific - your therapist will take you through the first area you want to focus on, and explore what memories you have associated with it. You’ll choose which specific memory to begin with - and you’ll likely start with the first or most intense memory.
Desensitization is the step you probably think of when you think of EMDR. Your therapist will work on changing how the memory feels in your body and how you experience it. You’ll use repetitive movements, like moving your eyes from side to side or tapping alternating shoulders, to gradually make the memory feel less intense.
During installation, your therapist will work to make your positive feelings related to the memory feel stronger than your negative ones. This can help you reprocess the memory and make a new meaning from the experience.
Next, you’ll do a body scan to see if you’re still holding on to the memory anywhere in your body. If you’re still experiencing tension, your therapist will help you release it.
After you’ve released any remaining tension, you’ll move on to the closure step. You’ll learn how to take care of yourself between sessions and what to do if you experience any strong emotions. You’ll also keep track of anything that comes up so that you and your therapist can discuss it during your next session.
The last step, re-evaluation of treatment, means that your therapist will continue to review how you’re responding to EMDR and whether you’ll continue to choose new memories to work on. They’ll also explore other therapies you could benefit from in addition to EMDR.
EMDR is a well-studied form of therapy that can help with a variety of issues.
It’s often a popular choice for dealing with issues that are challenging to talk about.
EMDR could be a good fit for you if:
- Talk therapy hasn’t been helpful for specific traumas or memories
- Past events are having a strong influence on your daily life
- You’re willing and able to reprocess past experiences
EMDR is not the right choice for everyone.
For EMDR to be effective, you need to be willing to complete all eight steps of the process. You also need to be present in your body and able to sit with uncomfortable emotions.
EMDR can be an intense experience, and you may prefer to build a relationship with your therapist through other therapeutic techniques before beginning EMDR.
Some physical and mental health conditions can also make EMDR less effective - in this case, other forms of therapy are more suitable.
EMDR might not be the right fit if:
- You’re uncomfortable sitting with negative emotions (or you’re not yet ready to think about traumatic memories)
- You struggle with dissociation or have a dissociative disorder
- You experience epilepsy or seizures
Alternative Types of Therapy
While EMDR can help many people make significant progress in therapy, you may be interested in learning about some alternative forms of therapy.
Alternatives to EMDR include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Dialectical behaviour therapy
- Emotion-focused therapy
These types of therapy can be effective in treating PTSD and other issues that EMDR can treat, and can even be used before EMDR in a treatment plan.
Next Steps for Beginning Trauma Therapy
After reading this article, you know what EMDR is and whether it might be a great option for you to explore.
If you’re looking for an EMDR therapist near you, we recommend searching Psychology Today for a wide range of options.
Explore our trauma therapy page to learn more about the types of therapy we offer (EMDR coming soon.)
Fill out our Registration form for more information - and feel free to add a note if you’d like to be notified when we start offering EMDR! Our team will get back to you within 24 hours.
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