Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidenced-based psychotherapy method that was first studied and utilized as a therapy for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) . According to the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA) EMDR is now highly utilized to treat multiple psychological issue including but not limited to personality disorders, eating disorders, panic attacks, performance anxiety, complicated grief, stress, dissociative disorders, disturbing memories, addictions, phobias, pain disorders, sexual and/or physical abuse and body dysmorphic disorders. EMDR therapy is an eight-phase treatment which comprehensively identifies and addresses experiences that have overwhelmed the brain’s natural resilience or coping capacity, and have thereby generated traumatic symptoms and/or harmful coping strategies. Through EMDR therapy, patients are able to reprocess traumatic information until it is no longer psychologically disruptive (EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program). During this procedure, patients tend to “process” the memory in a way that leads to a safe and peaceful resolution. This often results in increased insight regarding both previously disturbing events and long held negative thoughts about the self. For example, an assault victim may come to realize that he was not to blame for what happened, that the event is really over, and, as a result he can regain a general sense of safety in his world (EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program).
How it Works - Adaptive Information Processing
Adaptive information processing can be described as psychological wellness developed through and supported by positive life experiences with successful outcomes. These experiences equip an individual to cope with and process adversity effectively. Such positive experiences prepare an individual to manage distress effectively. These type of experiences build an individuals self-worth, ability to regulate and soothe emotions and increase resiliency. They allow the brain to create a positive association and a paired response to similar experiences in the future.
Life experiences that are negative can interfere with the brain's natural processing capabilities. Depending on the nature of the negative experience, the strengths and developmental stages of the person impacted, and the support available at the time of the event, some experiences cannot be easily moved or recovered from (EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program). Thus, creating psychological distress symptoms.
However due to neuroplasticity if these events can be fully processed and adaptive information processing enhanced healing can begin to take place. EMDR opens up the brain's natural process to facilitate healing which ultimately leads to a reduction of suffering and symptoms and to the development of new coping skills that can support psychological health. After successful treatment with EMDR, affective distress is relieved, negative beliefs are reformulated, and physiological arousal associated with stress is reduced (EMDR Humanitarian Assistance Program).
EMDR therapy simulates the eye movements that occur during REM sleep. REM sleep is the brain's natural rejuvenating, restorative, healing method used to process information in a healthy and adaptive manner. EMDR can stimulate this same mechanism in the brain while an individual is awake through the use of bi-lateral stimulation. The bi-lateral stimulation enables the brain to move towards health and to encode information in a healthy, adaptive way. EMDR is not hypnosis and therefore an individual remains in complete control and aware during the therapy.
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