Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a cutting-edge psychotherapeutic evidence-based treatment that can ease the distressing effects of traumatic memories that are associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This treatment approach was developed in the late 1980’s by the American psychologist, Francine Shapiro, Ph.D. Over the past 25 years of its use, EMDR therapy has successfully treated millions of people suffering from PTSD.
Disturbing life experiences frequently cause significant emotional, psychological and physical pain. Conceptualize this pain as a physical injury such as a cut or an abrasion. Just as further injury will prevent that cut from closing, lingering memories of upsetting events can act as continuing trauma that irritates the original wound, preventing proper healing. When the traumatic memories blocking the healing process can be removed, these wounds can cease festering and overall mental health can be improved.
Visual Bilateral Stimulation (BLS) often involves following with one’s vision a light moving from left to right. The visual stimulation activates certain neurological reflexes and functions. When exposed to the present visual stimuli, the concentration of the nervous system will be fixated on that and diverted from the elements associated with the traumatic memory. As a result of the attention being occupied by BLS, the mind cannot fully focus on the problematic memory and the related distress is relaxed. The overtly emotional response one may experience while remembering a traumatic event is inhibited. This event is first measures in SUDs (subjective units of distress) and then measures throughout the BLS until the SUDs reaches 0 (no distress).
Through this process, the mind can be conditioned to have a changed response to the memories that were once emotionally debilitating. The typical negative responses to such memories can be revised into a more positive response over time. For example, somebody who has been sexually assaulted that recalls the horror of being a victim of sexual assault can come to associate the memory of that event with the personal strength of being a survivor. The memory can then lean towards producing an empowering effect, rather than a detrimental one. These “empowering effects” are measured in VoC (validity of cognition) and the therapist and client aim to increase this to seven.
The language used to describe the EMDR process in detail is all very technical and the reasons why EMDR produces the results that it does are still largely theoretical. Regardless, the results and case studies of EMDR therapy are prodigious. Some studies indicate that up to 90% of single traumatic event sufferers of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder no longer showed symptoms after EMDR treatment. 77% of multiple trauma PTSD clients were alleviated of their symptoms to the point of no longer being diagnosed.
At Inspire Recovery, we have two EMDR trained clinicians. One of them is a Primary Therapist at Inspire, Gregory LoForte, MS, LMHC. The other specialist is Shirley Ingram, MA, LMHC, CAP. Whether a client needs EMDR to further their recovery process is determined by the clinical team. Each session is held during a one-on-one with the client and the specialist during treatment hours.