Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and EMDR: What You Should Know

Jul 10, 2022

What if a hand, light, sound, or movement could decrease or erase the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? Would you find a therapist who could help you heal from your traumatic event if they used one of these techniques? If you answered yes, then you need to learn about eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy and its effects on PTSD.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

People use the word “traumatic” to describe specific events. For example, someone can say they were traumatized because their favorite show was canceled. Yet, while this is upsetting for some, canceling a show is not what the American Psychological Association (APA) considers a traumatic event.

The APA defines PTSD as an anxiety problem that develops because of traumatic events a person experienced or witnessed. A few examples of traumatic events are abuse (sexual or physical), death, or severe injury. Traumatic events that trigger an extreme emotional response can create physical and mental harm.

PTSD and Your Health

Trauma is stored in your body. Your mind holds onto the emotions you felt during the event. The remaining trauma can lead to blocks of negative behaviors. Additionally, physical pain or illnesses can stem from stored trauma. Pain – physical or mental – disrupts your body’s ability to heal.

A better way to understand the effects of PTSD on your well-being is to consider how wounds heal. When you cut yourself, your body’s healing process is activated. All hands are on deck, focused on one mission: heal the damage. However, there are times when assistance, and medical intervention, can provide the vital care needed to heal.

A traumatic event is a mental wound. Your mind will try to repair the hurt, but stored trauma blocks healing. Therapy for substance addiction and/or mental health issues is crucial in the healing process.

EMDR Treatment

EMDR is an effective form of therapy when treating symptoms of PTSD. EMDR is a scientifically proven way to achieve the goal of removing obstacles so you can heal. 

Most people receive EMDR therapy in weekly sessions over a one to three-month period. These sessions typically last between 50-90 minutes. People commonly report that they began to feel better after only a few sessions. People who engaged in EMDR therapy also shared that the effects of EMDR can last for long periods. 

Stages of EMDR Treatment

Stage One 

Before you begin participating in EMDR, you will discuss your past, present, and future. Your therapist may not focus on the traumatic event. Instead, they may take you back to your childhood to discuss harmful events or feelings. Identifying distressing events in your past can aid you in realizing how your past influences your present. You can recognize dangerous behaviors and find healthy ways to replace them with positive behaviors.

While you’re in session with your therapist, you will not be asked to talk about the traumatic event. Instead, you are asked to think about the event. From there, you and your therapist can identify potential focus areas for treatment. A part of deciding what areas to focus on requires an examination of distressing memories and present situations that are sources of emotional distress.

Stage Two

As you advance in treatment, you and your therapist will work on healthy coping skills. For instance, your therapist can teach you how to replace a negative emotional response to a situation with imagery or a stress-reducing technique (meditation). These techniques are ways to cope with events in between your EMDR sessions. Another benefit of establishing healthy coping skills is maintaining a balance between and throughout sessions.

Stages Three-Six

Phases three through six identify the target event and use the EMDR process. When you begin these phases, your therapist will ask you to pinpoint:

  • A sharp visual image connected to your memory of the traumatic event
  • Harmful thoughts and feelings about yourself
  • Emotions and body responses associated with the event

You can expect your therapist to ask you to name a self-affirming belief. Next, you will determine the intensity of that belief and any negative thinking. Once you have established your image, harmful thought, and how your body feels, you will engage in EMDR. Your therapist can use taps, sounds, or eye movements. Pay attention to how you think throughout this process.

After the simulation ends, let your mind go blank. What are your first thoughts, feelings, or sensations? Your emotional and physical response will determine what your therapist will target next. Once you no longer report distressing thoughts or feelings, you are asked to integrate the positive belief you identified at the beginning of treatment. Then, you can focus on this belief during unfortunate events.

Stages Seven & Eight

While you’re in treatment, you may use journaling to help you identify negative emotions or thoughts. Once you complete phases one through six in your EMDR treatment, your therapist may ask you to keep a log. Then, during your weekly therapy sessions, you can go over your experiences from the week. Eventually, you can turn to your record to discover how you coped with distressing events.

 Your mind and body store traumatic events. The pain that you carry within affects your physical and mental health. These damaging effects are associated with post-traumatic disorder (PTSD). You can find relief from PTSD when you engage in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. EMDR is a scientifically proven way to decrease or remove harmful feelings caused by a traumatic event. At Renaissance Ranch Treatment Centers, we believe in the positive effects EMDR has on your mental and physical health. Because of our dedication to your individual needs, we remain on the cutting edge of substance addiction and mental health treatment. Our therapists can work with you to create a custom treatment plan. When you engage in EMDR, your responses throughout the process will determine each phase of treatment. To learn more about EMDR and its healing process for those with PTSD, call (801) 308-8898.