Francine Shapiro, PH.D. developed a specific procedure for trained therapists to follow when providing EMDR therapy to clients. Prior to an EMDR therapy session, a client needs to be thoroughly assessed; given an explanation of EMDR and given the opportunity to ask questions. After the client gives consent for this type of treatment, an EMDR trained therapist would ask the client to bring up a specific aspect of the traumatic event, a negative self-cognition of himself/herself, negative emotions and related physical sensations about the trauma. Next while holding all of these in mind, the client would be asked to follow with his/her eyes the back – and – forth rhythm of the therapist’s hand as it moved across his/her field of vision for a few repetitions. After each repetition of rhythmic stimulation the client is asked to report the images, cognitions, emotions and/or physical sensations that emerge. This procedure continues until desensitization of troubling material is complete and positive self cogn ition has replaced the previous negative self cognition.
Eye movements or other forms of rhythmical stimulation such as hand taps or tones can be used. These rhythmical forms of stimulation seem to assist the brain’s information processing system to proceed at a rapid rate. EMDR seems to assist clients in healing from a traumatic event within a short number of sessions as compared to other forms of therapy. EMDR appears to address a client’s trouble feelings, thoughts, physical sensations and behaviors related to those feelings. As a simplistic example, a woman involved in a fatal car accident with a drunk driver may experience continued feelings of helplessness and fear along with believing that she’s at fault. She may also have feelings of guilt for having survived the accident while everyone else in her car died. She may experience panic and anxiety when driving in a car as a passenger or when just thinking about driving a car again herself. Therefore, she may decide to never travel in a car again and just rely on walking as her mode of transportation. In this bypothetical scenario, if she would participate in EMDR therapy, it would give her the opportunity to address and resolve her feelings of helplessness, fear and guilt. She would also address the self-blame. Once these issues are addressed she would be able to travel in a vehicle again. EMDR therapy would help her to replace these negative feelings, thoughts and reactions with confidence, forgiveness, acceptance and self-esteem. In addition, she would feel empowered for EMDR is a therapy where the client is in control of the course of the session in terms of the pace and what issues are addressed. This sense of empowerment is very meaningful since clients often feel helpless or powerless from a traumatic event. EMDR gives the client the opportunity to gain mastery over previously overwhelming experiences, phobia, anxiety and bereavement. Overall the client would regain control of his/her life and emotions.
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