According to the EMDR International Association (EMDRIA), EMDR Therapy is designed “to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health.” It is used for traumatic experiences that may be at the root of any mental disorder, be it addiction or Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) to name a few.
“The goal of EMDR therapy is to process completely the experiences that are causing problems, and to include new ones that are needed for full health." Processing here does not mean simply talking about experiences that are problematic, but “digesting” those experiences today in a healthier mold, so that it does not affect the patient, the way it has been doing for so long. To do this, treatment is devised into 8 phases:
Aim: To attain the history of the client and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
Duration: 1 to 2 sessions.
Discussion: Specific problems, behaviors stemming from the problems and symptoms.
Special Features: Patients do not have to be detailed about the events, an outline will do.
Aim: To establish a relationship of trust between therapist and patient.
Duration: 1 to 4 sessions.
Discussion: Honest discussion of the emotions that arise throughout the process. The theory of treatment will be taught and expectations will be discussed. Patients will be taught how to relax in the face of emotional turmoil.
Perspective: The therapist has to be seen as a guide whom one can trust with the process.
Aim: To access each target experience in a controlled and standardized way so it can be easily processed.
Duration: Reprocessing for a single trauma usually takes up to 3 sessions. If it takes longer, the severity of the emotional attachment should be much reduced within that time.
Therapy: The patient identifies the target and the related negative cognition that goes with it, and assesses it according to a “Validity of Cognition (VOC)” scale, whereby 1 = completely false and 7 = completely true. Then the patient notes the feelings that go with the cognition and rates those feelings according to a “Subjective Units of Disturbance (SUD)” scale, whereby 0 = no disturbance and 10 = the worse feeling you’ve ever had.
Preparation: These first three phases prepares the patient for the complex therapy which will involve EMDR techniques in the sessions that follow.
Aim: To process and minimize the patient’s SUDs as disturbing emotions and responses. They are thus desensitized through various stimulations, e.g. eye movement.
Duration: Varies depending on the target experience and the emotions that follow.
Therapy: As the patient recalls the targeted event; memories, insights and associations will arise until the resolution of the target itself. Patients then make connections between the target trauma and other seemingly disconnected events in their life, which naturally get resolved at the same time. Healing here is holistic and beyond expectations.
Desensitization: Patients are brought into sets of eye movements or other stimulations to encourage different associations with the memory. The desensitization process continues until the patient has reached a low SUD mark, preferably between 0 and 2 towards the target event.
Aim: To increase the strength of the positive belief, which was adopted by the patient to replace the negative belief of the target event.
Duration: Varies depending on the individual.
Therapy: The new belief around a traumatic event will be reinforced, after having come up with the resolution in the previous phase. For example, if the patient suffered abuse from his/her father and developed a cognition saying “I’m not good enough”; he/ she will have the chance to develop the contrary cognition of “I am good enough” throughout this phase of treatment. The success of this phase is measured through the VOC scale. For it to be truly believable, patients may have to do things that prove themselves to be “good enough” like pursuing their hobbies, make lifestyle changes like eating healthily and having a job. The validity will depend on how believable the cognition is towards the patient.
Aim: To notice and reprocess any residual tension in the body after positive cognition has been installed and strengthened.
Rationale: Evaluation of thousands of EMDR sessions have revealed that there is a physical response to unresolved thoughts. When a patient experiences traumatic events, the event is stored in “motoric memory”, which retains the connection between the negative emotions and the stored memory. The goal of EMDR is to re-store the memory into the narrative memory, where the memory no longer evokes bodily sensations and negative emotions.
Measure of success: EMDR therapy is not successful until the patient can bring up the target without any negative bodily sensations and emotions. Positive beliefs have to be felt and not just reasoned into the patient.
Aim: The patient leaves feeling better than when he/she first started.
Duration: 1 session and if it is not possible, then self-calming techniques are taught to train the patient to surf through the discomfort.
Self-Control: Patients are taught that they are in-charge of the process from the very start. They were told that they could lift their hands up in a “stop” position to signal to the therapist of the need to stop at times. Hence, they are well-equipped with tools such as journaling and self-calming techniques to hone in the results reached through EMDR.
Aim: Maintenance of the positive results: Low SUDs, High VOCs, and no body tension. The therapist also identifies new targets, reprocesses them and identifies any new areas that are in need of treatment.
Duration: Subsequent sessions after the initial 7 phase treatment program. Varies.
Importance: Completion of the 8 phases are necessary to ensure that patients are successful in keeping the freedom gained through EMDR. Even though relief will come effectively over the sessions, the necessity to complete all phases are vital to the working of this therapy.
At Solace Sabah, we have a specialist who has been trained as a licensed EMDR practitioner. Not only will our clients get top-rated care for their issues with addiction, but throughout the process of treatment here, they could opt for EMDR therapy, which is an invaluable opportunity for more, thorough healing and closure. With this therapy, it is hoped that our patients will get the best out of their treatment here at Solace Sabah, leaving us with a free, unaffected and calm spirit that could face the world beyond.