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EYE movement desensitization & reprocessing

     In 1987, psychologist Dr. Francine Shapiro made the chance observation that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts. Dr. Shapiro studied this effect scientifically and in 1989 she reported success, using EMDR to treat victims of trauma, in the Journal of Traumatic Stress. EMDR has continued to develop and evolve through the contributions of therapists and researchers all over the world. EMDR is an integrative psychotherapy approach that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress. 

  1. History Taking (1-2 Sessions)
    In this stage, I will be learning your history and conducting assessments to gain an awareness of your current level of functioning. I will be creating a target sequence plan, an overview of what affects you from your past and a template for future reprocessing. In this phase you are likely to discuss touchstone events, previous significant experiences that contribute to your current symptoms. You may be surprised to learn how current life circumstances are directly linked  to your experiences with past events you may not understand are affecting you. 

  2. Preparation (1-4 Sessions)
    In this phase I will administer a brief assessment to identify if you experience dissociation. I will be teaching and equipping you with coping skills and helping you create a safe-place that you can access at any time through cueing. We will talk about your support system . You will learn about bilateral stimulation (BLS), the back-and-forth eye movements, sounds, or tactile sensations that help the right and left hemispheres to process the traumatic material and activate the brain’s Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) system. 

  3. Assessment
    In this phase I will teach you what a template is and we will determine what you want to target. I will ask you for any images, thoughts, memories, physical sensations, or anything else that is disturbing you regarding the target. I will have you rate yourself on a scale from 0-10 with 10 representing "most disturbing". I will assist you in identifying a negative cognition, and a positive cognition, and to rate how true your positive cognition feels (when you are being triggered by targeted material) on a scale of 1-7 with 7 representing "totally true." The goal is to get the disturbance to 0 and the positive cognition to 7. 

  4. Desensitization
    This phase is when the BLS comes into play. Those who have used EMDR know that this is where one targets triggers. All of your senses become involved as you process the disturbance you are targeting. There is not a lot of talking during this process; rather, we will have brief check ins to discover what material your brain is bringing up, and then go back to moving your eyes back and forth, hearing the tones, or feeling the taps. This is where AIP comes into play, and your brain will recycle the material for your nervous system to release it as it did not get to at the time. 

  5. Installation
    Next, we will install the positive cognition that you chose with the BLS, but before we do, we recheck to see if the positive cognition has changed at all. It often does because you have moved further on in your healing. We will also check to see how true that positive cognition feels to you, using the same 1-7 scale from phase three. We then keep using the BLS to see if anything is getting in the way. When you get to a 7, completely true, we move to phase six.

  6. Body Scan
    Just as the name suggests, you will be asked to mentally scan your body to find any sensations or tensions that signal that something is still stuck regarding the target. If there are any lingering sensations, we will continue with the BLS.

  7. Closure
    This will look and sound different depending on whether your session was complete or incomplete. You will close down the material and do a final check. You will also use various methods, including imagery, to contain the material that is still not processed. This may include returning to your safe place or creating a container to hold anything that may become to distressing in between sessions.

  8. Reevaluation
    Though it looks like the last step, the reevaluation phase spirals back as if it were the beginning. I will do a check in at the beginning of your next session to reevaluate your disturbance level regarding the target from the last session. This helps me determine if your disturbance is still neutral and if your positive cognition still rings true. If the previous EMDR session was incomplete, the cycle begins again at phase four.


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