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EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a type of psychotherapy used by mental health therapists and clinicians around the world. Developed by American psychologist Francine Shapiro, EMDR helps people to heal from trauma and feel better about their lives.
It can be used with other kinds of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis. Renewed Edge, a leading counselling and hypnotherapy centre, is a leading provider of EMDR Therapy Hong Kong.
What Is EMDR Therapy?
EMDR therapy is a technique that combines the recall of disturbing memories with guided eye movements to process past trauma. Relatively new, the therapy is known for its ability to achieve fast results. And it can cater to adults and adolescents’ needs.
Successful use of EMDR exercises relieves discomfort, reformulates negative beliefs, and reduces the body’s response to stress. EMDR uses detailed procedures and protocols to help clients heal past wounds. And EMDR therapists have extensive training in these methods.
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How Does EMDR Therapy Work?
Scientists know that mental images are necessary for recalling memories. They also know that the senses are reactivated when an event is remembered. Because recalling an event changes the way it is remembered, the memory becomes less intense.
Typically, the EMDR therapist would ask the patient to reminisce about the traumatic event while moving their finger from side to side. The patient would then track the therapist’s finger movement.
According to researchers, the bilateral activation of the brain results in a reprocessing of the traumatic information, leading to progressive desensitization. The PTSD symptoms subside and life quality improves.
What Happens during an EMDR Session?
During EMDR counselling, the therapist guides the client through negative beliefs and emotions by stimulating both eyes with repeated movements or taps.
Sessions begin with a personal history and treatment plan. The therapist explains the procedure, reviews the process with the client, and assesses the strength of a targeted memory.
While focusing on the event, the client reports on emerging thoughts and emotions. The analysis of the report becomes the foundation for the next session, and the process continues until the client feels comfortable with the memory.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy vs EMDR
How effective is EMDR compared with cognitive behavioural therapy? Studies have consistently shown EMDR exercises to be effective for reducing the physical and psychological symptoms of adverse events. Research also suggests that EMDR works slightly better than cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for treating trauma.
EMDR Can Treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Historically, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy was developed for people suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Researchers agree that eye movement desensitisation can alleviate PTSD symptoms. And many health care institutes, such as the World Health Organization and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), have included EMDR in their guidelines for the treatment of PTSD.
For example, a 2014 survey of 24 studies recommended EMDR to medical providers and clinicians for treating patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma, anxiety, and related disorders.
The symptoms typically include:
- Distressing memories
- Physical arousal, which can impair sleep
- Avoidance strategies (people or places related to the trauma)
- Memory lapses (about the events leading to the trauma)
- Increasing reactivity
- Painful feelings
- Self-blame, fears and other negative emotions
The physical symptoms and negative thoughts can be so severe that the PTSD sufferer can have issues developing relationships or functioning at work. In addition, extensive trauma can sometimes lead to severe mental health problems such as schizophrenia and severe mood disorders.
How Does EMDR Help With Trauma?
Besides treating PTSD and traumatic memories, studies showed that EMDR is effective for treating trauma in psychosis. As a result, it is quite common to see trauma therapy treatments containing EMDR in addition to talking therapy.
During treatment, protocols were adapted to avoid direct exposure to disturbing stimuli and to extend the duration of therapy. Participants did not have an increased risk of suicide. While hallucinations responded positively to EMDR, paranoia did not. Self-esteem improved, and symptoms of anxiety and depression diminished.
How Long Is an EMDR Treatment?
The duration of treatment depends on the individual’s history and the nature of the problem.
In one study, between 80% and 90% of participants processed single traumas during their first three sessions. Eight in ten people with multiple or complicated traumatic memories showed a significant improvement in post-traumatic-stress disorder within six hours of therapy.
In a study of combat veterans, 77% showed significant improvement in PTSD symptoms within 12 EMDR sessions.
Individual sessions vary but usually last from 60 to 90 minutes. Results may be seen in as little as one session, or they may require multiple sessions. Each treatment plan addresses three aspects of a single trauma: disturbing memories, present distress, and future actions.
EMDR may work quickly, but it may take more sessions. Clients have various needs, and issues that need attention may pop up during sessions.
Can EMDR Be Done Online?
Whether offered online or in person, the basic principles of EMDR are the same. The brain activation and reprocessing of traumatic information can be achieved in both ways. A major difference between EMDR online and in person is the way the therapist delivers the technique.
In person, the client may be asked to follow lights or the therapist’s hands with the eyes. The therapist can be a counsellor or a clinical psychologist trained in the method.
Online, software and self-tapping are common devices. EMDR software may use moving lights or sounds through headphones.
Individual preferences for online or in-person sessions vary, but the COVID-19 epidemic increased the demand for virtual sessions. Because sessions trigger troubling thoughts, some people prefer the presence of a clinician. Others like the convenience and affordability of virtual or self-administered classes.
Does EMDR Work For Anxiety?
Traumatic experiences trigger negative feelings. Emotions, such as fear and shame, interfere with the ability to store memories effectively. When thoughts, smells, or other senses activate the memory, the distress may come back as anxiety. EMDR helps to identify and reprocess the triggers, reducing symptoms of anxiety and related disorders.
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Can EMDR help with Eating Disorders?
There is a robust body of studies suggesting the efficacy of EMDR in treating eating disorders. While more research is needed to support the use of EMDR therapy for eating disorders, the current studies showed benefits in reducing body image distortions and dysfunctional eating.
EMDR Therapy Hong Kong
The team of professionals at Hong Kong Counselling, Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy Centre can provide EMDR therapy by itself or in combination with other mental health services, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, audio hypnotherapy or health and wellness counselling. In addition, we support children, teenagers and adults and adapt the different types of therapy to their needs.
Don’t let your fears affect you. Instead, book an appointment today, or visit Renewed Edge Counselling to find out how EMDR therapy Hong Kong can help you reach your goals and empower your life.