EMDR for PTSD is a term used to describe how EMDR can help relieve, or reduce the trauma associated with PTSD. It can help you process upsetting memories, thoughts, and feelings related to the injury. By transforming these experiences, you can get relief from PTSD symptoms.
Practice guidelines have identified that trauma-focused psychotherapies have the most evidence for treating PTSD. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is one type of trauma-focused psychotherapy.
Although EMDR is an effective treatment for PTSD, there is disagreement about it works. Some research shows that the back and forth movement is an integral part of treatment, but other research shows the opposite.
What Can I Expect?
During the first stage, you will learn about physical and emotional reactions to trauma. You and your provider will discuss how ready you are to focus on your trauma memories in therapy. To prepare, you will learn some new coping skills.
Next, you will identify the “target,” or the upsetting memory you want to focus on, including any negative thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations related to the memory. You will hold the memory in your mind while also paying attention to a back-and-forth movement or sound (like your provider’s moving finger, a flashing light, or a tone that beeps in one ear at a time) until your distress goes down. This tone will last for about 30 seconds at a time, and then you will talk about what the exercise was like for you.
Eventually, you will focus on a positive belief and feeling while you hold the memory in your mind. Towards the end of treatment, your provider will re-assess your symptoms to see if you need to process other targets.
What Are the Risk of EMDR Therapy for PTSD?
You may feel uncomfortable when focusing on trauma-related memories or beliefs, especially at first. These feelings are usually brief, and people tend to feel better as they keep doing EMDR. Most people who complete EMDR find that the benefits outweigh any initial discomfort. Read more about the side effects of EMDR.
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