EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a technique targeting the subcortical brain. It has been shown to be effective with a number of diagnoses, including trauma, PTSD, and anxiety-based disorders.

Ali Iverson (Schilling), Psy.D. and Alex Chaplik, LCSW are currently able to provide EMDR. 

This therapy is often used as an adjunct to other types of therapies. 

The Process

First, your therapist and you will determine if EMDR therapy is a good fit for you. You will work with your therapist to develop a target sequence plan, which is built around a specific activating memory.

You will then work with your therapist to identify the belief that is associated with the image (for example, this might be "I am unworthy" or "I am unsafe").

Next, you will complete a process to identify the postive belief that would indicate that the situation was resolved. 

While focusing on the negative event, your therapist will use bilateral stimulation (having you move your eyes from side to side, listen to sounds, or tap alternatively side to side). You will than be guided to notice what comes up. Sometimes, this will be shifts in insight, feelings, or beliefs regarding the event being processed. Of important note - you do not need to discuss or share the trauma with your therapist for this therapy to be effective. 

You will have full control to stop the session at any point. Our EMDR sessions last 55 minutes. There are 8 phases to this treatment as listed below: 

Phase 1: History and Treatment Planning

This phase generally takes 1-2 sessions. Your clinician will take a thorough history and develop a treatment plan with you. 

Phase 2: Preparation

You will likely not start EMDR on your first session. This is because it is important to learn techniques to manage distressing emotions that may come up through the EMDR process. In phase 2, you will learn a number of emotional coping skills before moving to phase 3. 

Phase 3: Assessment

In this phase, you will be prompted to access each target in a controlled and standardized way. The phrase "processing" means you will use bilateral stimulation while holding the image, emotion, and belief in your mind. You will first choose an image, and then a negative self-belief associated with the image (these fall into 5 categories, value (e.g. "I am unworthy"), safety (e.g. "I am in danger"), power ("I am powerless"), control ("I am not in control"), and responsibility ("It is all my fault"). With the guidance of your clinican, you will then identify significant events in the past and future associated with the belief. 

Next, you will choose a positive self-belief you would rather belive (e.g. "I am worthy"). You will be asked how true this belief feels to you (not how true you think it should be). 

After completing a list of past, present, and future events for both the 'negative' and 'positive' cognitions, the EMDR process starts.

You will be asked to hold the image in mind and identify the emotions and physical sensations that are produced. You will rate your Subjective Unit of Disturbance (SUD) to measure a change in the emotional intensity over time. The goal is for your SUD score to decrease and for your new positive belief to feel more true overtime. 

Phase 4: Desensitization

During this phase, you will work to decrease your SUD rating through pairing bilateral stimulation (such as eye movements) with the image. It is also common for patients to experience resolution of other similar memories that share a similar negative cognition. You will continue in this phase until your SUD score is 0 (you experience no distress from the memory). 

Phase 5: Installation

The goal of this phase is to increase the strength of the positive belief. For example, if your positive cognition is "I am safe" - you would work on reprocessing until you believe this completely.

Phase 6: Body Scan

After completing phase 5, the next step is to clear all body sensations associated with the trauma. You will continue the bilateral stimulation (e.g. eye movements) until all physical sesations are alleviated. 

This is a very important step as research as found that information about traumatic events or experiences are stored in body memory (called mortic memory), rather than narrative memory (verbal, imagery associated with the event). When information in mortic memory is processed, it can then move to narrative memory for it to be verbalized and the physical symptoms disappear. An EMDR target memory is not considered healed until all body sensations and negative feelings associated with it disappear. 

Phase 7: Closure

This phase is completed at each treatment session. This ensures the patient leaves the end of each session feeling better than the begining. If desensitization is not complete at the end of a single session, calming techniques will be used to help the person achieve calm. You will also be briefed as to what to expect between sessions (e.g. ongoing processing). 

Phase 8: Reevaluation

This is the start of each session. You will reevaluate progress in your treatment plan. 

Questions? Contact us for more information!

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