5 Reasons you Should Add EMDR to your Psychotherapy Toolbox
At Envision we know you’re continually refining your skills and searching for tools to improve your practice and the lives of your clients. As a therapist, you likely have a fulsome arsenal of tried and true therapeutic techniques and interventions that you apply on a case-by-case basis to help your clients get the most out of their sessions. A technique that you may have heard about, but not yet had the opportunity to study up on is EMDR – or Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Envision has launched the Envision Academy which offers a unique, one-of-a-kind basic EMDR training program. We have launched this training because we very much believe in the benefits of EMDR within your practice and that’s precisely what we would like to discuss today – the top 5 reasons to add EMDR to your psychotherapy toolbox.
What is EMDR?
EMDR is essentially a tool designed to help decrease the autonomic symptoms heavily associated with traumatic experiences, giving the client reprieve from the trauma (1). The therapist asks the client to relive a distressing or traumatic experience, while the therapist directs eye movement or another type of bilateral stimulation. EMDR is a highly effective and powerful treatment that can reduce or completely relieve traumatic symptoms. In fact, studies on EMDR show that 84-100% of single-trauma sufferers and 77% of multiple-trauma sufferers were no longer suffering with PTSD to the same extent after a handful of treatments (2). EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro in 1988 as a way to ease and even desensitize distressing memories, after Shapiro noticed that her own distressing memories seem to lessen with the use of her proto-EMDR technique. Over the years, more insight has been gained regarding the efficacy of EMDR therapy and its application to a broad range of mental health disorders beyond PTSD.
EMDR has been studied as an excellent technique to decrease symptoms associated with general anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorders, phobias, addictions, and even insomnia or headaches! Additionally, EMDR can be used with sexual assault victims, crime victims, and people suffering from extreme grief (4). EMDR is a truly adaptive therapy. With that in mind, why should you learn to use it? This might already seem like an intriguing enough therapeutic modality to learn, but let’s dive into Envision’s top 5 reasons to add it to your practice.
5 Reasons you should add EMDR Therapy to your Psychotherapy Toolbox
1. It’s Highly Effective
I did allude to EMDR's efficacy, but I want to hammer it home because the technique would prove invaluable to your therapy and practice. According to EMDR.com, the mind can heal from psychological trauma by introducing a cognitive shift. For example, suppose a crime victim suffers from traumatic symptoms that can include mental gymnastics and self-reproach. In that case, EMDR is a practical therapy that puts the client in the driver's seat and empowers them to shift perspective from self-reproach and helplessness to strength and survival. EMDR therapy is relatively efficient, seeing a high success rate in only a handful of treatments (2). All in all, it is a powerful therapy not only for trauma sufferers, but also for people suffering from many other ailments.
2. It’s Evidenced-Based
Like EMDR's effectiveness, EMDR has been studied since the 1980s. It was created by Francine Shapiro as an alternate therapy tool to improve client's symptoms significantly and lessens traumatic effects, including fight, flight, or freeze (5). Several studies have illustrated EMDR's efficacy and effectiveness in therapy for many issues and conditions. Since EMDR's inception, over 100,000 clinicians have been trained in EMDR techniques and use them with their clients (6).
3. It Helps "Unclog" the Mind of Painful Memories
Trauma is a complicated matter that usually gets processed in a myriad of ways. Usually, trauma lingers in the nervous system causing painful memories that are often difficult to relieve. EMDR utilizes eye movements (or other types of bilateral stimulation) to help process trauma, anxiety, and other troubling and traumatic events. EMDR is a unique technique that empowers the client to shift perspectives from negative to positive in order to take back control of their life (2).
4. EMDR is a Kinder, Gentler Way of Processing and Treating Trauma
Trauma comes in all shapes and sizes. EMDR is a highly versatile and applicable technique that calmly assists with processing traumatic events. EMDR does not use forceful methods or asks the client to talk through the traumatic event(s). Instead, the therapist asks the client to bring the painful memories to the surface and then proceeds with the EMDR technique of following eye movements (or other types of bilateral stimulation). Clients often do not have to relive painful memories for long periods, which can only cause more harm and triggering episodes. Instead, the painful memories are only relived in small, manageable chunks.
5. It’s a Flexible Tool: Adaptable for Several Conditions and Experiences
Several published case studies are favoring the use of EMDR including, domestic violence (7), alcohol and substance dependence (8), trauma in youth (9), depression (11), grief and mourning (12), Obsessive-compulsive disorder (13), and several other conditions that may or may not be rooted in trauma. Because of EMDR's multifaceted use, it is a flexible therapy that can be used for a range of issues and conditions. It can be used independently or in combination with other supportive interventions and techniques (4).
There are a number of reasons that might encourage you to add EMDR to your practice. I’ve listed off some of the most dynamic reasons that will better enable you to work with your clients. Aside from that, EMDR is a rapidly growing therapeutic modality, with therapists undergoing training all the time. Beyond your psychotherapy toolbox, it opens the door for a more diverse and interesting practice through the ability to take on more challenging and unique cases. You can also be a part of an ever-growing professional community. The basic EMDR training is just the first step in your EMDR journey. After its completion, you can continue to refine your skills and advance your practice by undertaking the EMDR certification, then continuing further to become a Consultant should you wish. Once you complete your basic EMDR training, you can join the EMDRIA community where you’ll be able to connect with fellow professionals and keep up to date on recent developments.
Thanks for reading!
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1. EMDR Institute, Inc. Theory
4. Star, K. What is EMDR Therapy?
5. Vojtova, H. & Hastro, J. Neurobiology of eye movement desensitization. Act Nerv Super 51, 98–102 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03379925
6. EMDR Institute, Inc. Frequently Asked Questions
7. Phillips, K.M., Freund, B., Fordiani, J., Kuhn, R., & Ironson, G. EMDR treatment of past domestic violence: A clinical vignette. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 3(3), 192-197.
8. Kullack, C., & Laugharne, J. Standard EMDR protocol for alcohol and substance dependence comorbid with posttraumatic stress disorder: Four cases with 12-month follow-Up. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 10(1), 33-46.
9. Courtney, D. M. EMDR to treat children and adolescents: Clinicians' experiences using the EMDR journey game. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research. Vol 10 Issue 4, DOI: 10.1891/1933-3184.108.40.206
10. Egli-Bernd, H. EMDR in dissociative processes within the framework of personality disorders: The impact of cognitions in the EMDR process: The "dialogue protocol". Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 5(3), 131-139.
11. Hase, M., Balmaceda, U. M., Hase, A., Lehnung, M., Tumani, V., Huchzermeier, C., & Hofmann, A. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing ( EMDR ) therapy in the treatment of depression: A matched pairs study in an inpatient setting. Brain and Behavior, 5(6)
12. Solomon, Roger M & Hensley, Barbara J. (2020). EMDR therapy treatment of grief and mourning in times of COVID-19 (coronavirus). Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 14, 162-174.
13. Bohm, Karsten Rudiger. (2019). EMDR's efficacy for obsessive compulsive disorder. Journal of EMDR Practice and Research, 13(4), 333-336.