If you are having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) you may fall into one or more of three categories:
- intrusive memories
- avoidance and numbing
- increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal)
You may have someone suggest EMDR treatment to you. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing and is a treatment for PTSD.
In EMDR, a patient brings to mind emotionally unpleasant images and beliefs about themselves related to their traumatic event. With these thoughts and images in mind, patients are asked to experience bi-lateral stimulation as guided by the therapist.
I traveled to New England to receive EMDR but you can find a local clinician.
In your first session, the clinician will likely explain how EMDR might be used to address the specific concerns you have identified - and help you to identify the "target(s)" for EMDR reprocessing - the particular feeling(s), memory(ies), belief(s), or situation(s) that has been problematic for you.
There are different types of bilateral stimulation. Your clinician may use ear phones, tappers held in your hands, lights that can be followed by your eyes or various types of music with embedded bilateral sounds.
Using bilateral stimulation, you explore positive resources in your mind. EMDR is very effective at enhancing positive images, thoughts, and memories. Later, when working with upsetting targets, you can return to these positive resources as a place of safety, support, and calm.
As you think about the target - bilateral stimulation helps your mind "reprocess" the target by allowing your mind to move towards new thoughts and feelings. "Desensitization" occurs when there is a decrease in the anxiety or negative emotions associated with the target. When you no longer find the target disturbing, you have arrived at "adaptive resolution".
How many sessions will be needed?
Repeated studies show that EMDR can be extremely effective in as few as three sessions - compared to years in more traditional forms of therapy (see the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, vol.13,1999). Often one might anticipate 6 sessions and an assessment on whether to continue or to conclude EMDR. The time frame of the work will largely be determined by your needs and goals.
I used EMDR and it has been highly effective for me. I had a talented clinician and attended 8 sessions. I highly recommend EMDR.